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27 August, 2011

Lakmé. Sydney Opera House.

Lakmé. Delibes. Sydney Opera House. Wednesday, 24 August 2011

This was a thrilling performance of a true French masterpiece - even if it may not be to everyone’s taste. And the reason was the world-class performance of Emma Matthews in what might be her ideal part to date, vocally as well as dramatically. It made me wonder how Joan Sutherland was credible in the same role … but she was, of course, with a commanding Nilakantha in Clifford Grant. I thought Stephen Bennett was very fine as the proud Brahmin father - and his diction was like a native according to two Parisians seated near me. Emma Matthews’ Bell Song in Act II was coloratura pin-point perfection and was rapturously received. Not only did the soprano sing in each register with flawless accuracy, her glorious capacity to sustain notes at the very top of the range with ease made this experience an unforgettable pleasure for those lucky enough to be in the audience.

The famous duet (Viens, Mallika) is just one of several hit tunes heard in Act I which is wall-to-wall melody. Mezzo-soprano Domenica Matthews (no relation, I gather) gives a strong performance as Mallika. Roxane Hislop, Angela Brun and Jane Parkin made an excellent trio of white ladies in India.

An added pleasure of the night was the superb performance by tenor Aldo di Toro as Gerald. His voice is highly placed and natural sounding with a resonant squillo and pleasing timbre. While he looks like many-a-tenor on stage, he acts creditably and certainly cuts a figure of his military character.

The settings by Mark Thompson are a colourful Hindu fantasy-land in the tropical jungle … and it all ‘works’, including the congested and cacophonous market scene where the chorus shows its worth to glowing effect. The death scene in the hut in the woods is moving and mercifully brief for a final act. Suicide by Datura flower in India or Oleander in Sri Lanka is a sad end indeed (take note Dr Nitschkie).

The orchestra and off-stage bands were excellent under baton of Emmanuel Joel-Hornak.

I would recommend these performances to anyone as providing a wonderful, old fashioned night at the opera … there are even two intermissions! The company should be congratulated on this artistic triumph.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

Bell song by Emma Matthews from this production CLICK TO VIEW