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22 March, 2008

Un Ballo in Maschera, Sydney Opera House, Wed 19th March 2008

Un Ballo in Maschera, Sydney Opera House, Wed 19th March 2008

Conductor: Andrea Licata; Director: John Cox.

King - Dennis O’Neill
Anckestroem - Michael Lewis
Oscar - Loren Gore
Ulrica - Bernadette Cullen
Amelia - Nicole Youl
Count Horn - Richard Alexander
Count Ribbing - Richard Anderson

Dear Colleagues,

Another mid-season update on this wonderful opera production. We had a new Oscar with Loren Gore who is also singing Fiakamilli in Arabella at the moment. The pants role of Oscar shows off her considerable talents to better effect as she takes the scene both dramatically and vocally on three occasions in Masked Ball. Fiakamilli is a small but important role involving largely high coloratura ‘punctuation’ in a noisy chorus. It may be a big song but not a ‘big sing’. Oscar is a big sing, involving arias, chorus work and recitative. Ms Gore has a large voice with an even production up to a ringing top. I hope we hear much more of her.

Nicole Youl was in fine voice as was Michael Lewis. Dennis O’Neill’s command of the role of Gustavus is supreme. A retired baritone I know called the performance a veritable singing lesson. It is also hard to imagine a better witch than Bernadette Cullen who was in fine form, fair raising the roof with her prophesies and soothsaying.

Richard Alexander and Richard Anderson are the two basso conspirators who start and finish the action of this grizzly opera. They ceremoniously light and extinguish the old footlights as in another era. Along with the chorus they are unfailingly professional both vocally and dramatically. Andrea Licata and his orchestra received yet another rapturous ovation.

The production has much going for it and is an excellent foil for this near-perfect opera. The king’s writing desk is covered with a large Persian rug which looks rather odd in the regal apartments. The conspirators’ names are drawn out of a drawer, not an urn as stated in the libretto. The king wears a sailor’s suit to the fortune teller, not the attire of a fisherman as called for by the score. But these are small details in an otherwise charming and original production.

comments by Andrew Byrne ..

Dr Andrew Byrne MB BS (Syd) FAChAM (RACP)
Dependency Medicine,
75 Redfern Street, Redfern,
New South Wales, 2016, Australia
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