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08 September, 2009

Kiri conquers Sydney again - concert of opera arias.

Kiri Te Kanawa at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (Vladamir Ashkenazy Principal Conductor). Saturday 5th September 2009.

Concert conductor: Brian Castles-Onion. [see program items below]

Dear Reader,

The orchestral content alone would almost have been worth the ticket price. Each of four overtures/interlude from three centuries was played with gusto, accuracy and flair. Ms Te Kanawa appeared after the Nozze overture looking radiant yet relaxed and youthful in a full length red dress with sheer black jacket. Her bracket of songs from Mozart operas was immaculate and regal. Each is exacting in every way and Te Kanawa gave a veritable singing lesson with each one. Tempi were measured and much of the vocal line was taken softly with floated notes of great beauty contrasting with her strong and rather bell-like forte production. The voice is not as large as it once was but in this hall with excellent acoustics it carried perfectly well, even with a large orchestra and no amplification.

In the second half the diva was dressed in a splendid gown of kingfisher blue for an equally ambitious opening bracket of three Puccini songs.

This was the Saturday reprise of Thursday’s opening and it was a full house apart from some scattered seats in the organ gallery. The audience was politely appreciative. I suspect most were not regular opera goers. There was obviously a strong Kiwi contingent, including the singer’s son who we were told in a slightly awkward bit of banter, had ‘come over for the weekend’. Mr Castles-Onion looked somewhat nervous and sounded slightly awkward with his attempts at humour in his ‘talk time’. Nonetheless he had the orchestra sounding magnificent. Ms Te Kanawa made some generous remarks about Sydney as well as a comment Barry Humphries had made about her being ‘well preserved’ (which she is).

I enjoyed the Te Kanawa concert immensely and it would be hard to find better value for $150 anywhere. My favourites were probably the traditional Boheme extract (also one of Nellie Melba’s last) and Liu’s aria. The Arabella finale was also brilliant. None was ill-chosen and all well executed while her ‘O mio babino caro’ encore brought the house down. After the beautiful unaccompanied Maori love song ‘Pokarekare ana’ there was a standing ovation.

By chance there was a simultaneous intermission with the opera hall adjacent. While I did not recognise anyone in the concert hall audience, there were plenty of familiar faces in the opera foyer including Neville Wran, Andrew McKinnon and the Whittens. They were all attending another in the bumpy run of Bellini’s rarity Capulets & Montagues, conducted by Richard Bonynge. I was told that there were hundreds of empty seats. It is a shame that the marketing people did not do something clever to remind the potential audience that this otherwise obscure opera was “the composer of Norma’s tragic and tuneful version of the Romeo and Juliet story”.

Notes by Andrew Byrne ..

Opera blog:

The Marriage of Figaro: Overture
The Magic Flute: “Ach, ich fühl’s”
The Marriage of Figaro: “Porgi amor”
“E Susanna non vien! … Dove sono”
SAINT-SAËNS Samson et Dalila: Bacchanale
GUASTAVINO “La rosa y el sauce” (The Rose and the Willow)
GINASTERA “Canción al árbol del olvido” (The Tree of Forgetting)
R STRAUSS Closing scene from Arabella
VERDI The Force of Destiny: Overture
Turandot: “Signore, ascolta”
La bohème: “Donde lieta uscì”
Edgar: “O fior del giorno”
BERNSTEIN Candide: Overture
KORNGOLD Die tote Stadt: Marietta’s Song
CHARPENTIER Louise: “Depuis le jour”
Encores: PUCCINI O mio babino caro; Maori love song ‘Pokarekare ana’.