Yvonne Kenny, soprano
Simon Tedeschi, pianoforte
Ms Kenny has been singing at the highest levels in the world’s opera houses for decades. She has now wisely moved her repertoire to lieder and light song, both of which she is still eminently capable. Yet there was no hint that she was taking it easy as she pushed herself to the vocal limits, filling the hall with glorious vocalism. Furthermore, she sang nothing that was not ‘in the voice’. From serious high notes to an almost baritonal chest register, she put meaning, energy and beauty into every phrase. Her breath control was superior while her delicate pianissimi studied, effective and accurate.
Mr Tedeschi has an incomparable keyboard facility as well as being a sympathetic accompanist. Ms Kenny said he was “the Rolls Royce of accompanists”. One might be amused by his youthful, casual and almost goofy stage presence, ill fitting tuxedo and all. But nobody laughed when he started playing. One of Mr Tedeschi’s strengths was his terminal soft note, often taken after a long but tasteful pause. It is easier to play the piano loudly than otherwise.
Following an initial bracket of Schubert lieder by Ms Kenny, expertly sung, we heard Mr Tedeschi in Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4 and Debussy ‘En Bateau’. The latter were both taxing show-pieces for the keyboard, brilliantly executed.
Before interval there were songs of Faure, Debussy and three by Hahn. British folk songs started the second half, followed by three Gershwin preludes and ‘In Dahomey’ (‘Cakewalk Smasher’) piano variations by Percy Grainger (1909). The latter has a dramatic keyboard ruckus in which Mr Tedeschi might have damaged both his own fingers and the Bechstein grand piano but for his dexterity (I was later informed that the piano was a Asian model ‘re-branded’ as a Bechstein).
Some lovely ‘modern’ songs ended the jam-packed concert (Gershwin, Kern and Ivor Novello). One encore was (I think Irish): “Sing it yourself!”
I spoke to both the artists briefly afterwards … they were generous in mingling briefly with the crowds spilling out of the over-full church.
I hope these reflections are of interest to readers … more about Don Pasquale and La Traviata in due course on my blog. Also Carmen on the harbour was an unexpected pleasure. The Sydney opera season ends on Saturday 31st August and “rush” tickets have been aplenty, even with this short season.
Written by Andrew Byrne ..