Brandenburg, Boheme and a benefit

Last weekend musicians in Sydney put on a display of talent and camaraderie that delighted patrons.

On Friday evening, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra opened its Celestial Vivaldi series with works by Rebel, Corrette, Dell’abaca and Vivaldi.  One of the most notable aspects of this evening was the alto section that was made up entirely of counter-tenors! The edgy texture brought  to the overall sound by this section of 7  singers was quite remarkable – futile to even attempt to describe in words. Rather, it needs to be heard to be appreciated. Soloists Siobhan Stagg, Tim Chung, Tim Reynolds and James Roser were beautifully supported by the orchestra on period instruments including a suitably ornate positive organ, atop which knelt two angel statuettes in prayer, underscoring the theme of the presentation.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could be one of the most over performed works in the history of  Western music. It was refreshing therefore to hear one of its concerti, Spring re-scored by Corrette as Laudate Dominum de coelis for soloist, chorus and orchestra. The ardour of spring gave way to the inspiration of a sacred text performed by the choir and soloist with the orchestra, notably Guest Concertmaster Rachel Beesley taking ownership of the virtuoso violin passages.

This opening night performance was followed by the launch of the ABO’s 2012 season, a highlight of which is their first venture into opera with a production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with German tenor Markus Brutscher in the title role.

Sunday afternoon saw the good people of Opera Australia and the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra gather under the baton of Sarah-Grace Williams to perform the Marrickville Opera Gala at the Marrickville Town Hal in support of tenor Edmond Choo. Choo is already in the OA chorus and is on a quest to raise the funds he needs to pursue post-graduate vocal training at London’s Royal College of Music. It was a rare opportunity to see principals of the opera close up, portraying characters sans wigs, make up and costume, solely through the power and emotion of song.  Maestra Williams led her troupe with great sensitivity and musicianship – not an easy task for soloists or conductor without the aid of CCTV.

They sang from the heart – Primo Tenore Rosario la Spina with  ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Puccini’s Tosca, Anke Hoppner with ‘Sola Perduta’ from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Richard Anderson and the chorus with ‘O Isis und Osiris’ from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, Henry Choo with ‘Je crois entendre encore’ from Les pecheurs de perles by Bizet and Edmond Choo himself with his ‘party piece’ ‘A mes amis!/Pour mon ame’ from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment. There were the duets and the choruses as well, and at the end, the appreciation of the audience was overwhelming.  Whatever the reasons, opera is sometimes perceived as elitist and inaccessible – financially and geographically. I sensed that the audience was grateful not only for the opportunity to be present at this  gathering of outstanding talent, but also to the artistes for reaching out and bringing the art form to them. Bouquets to the performers who gave so generously of their time and talent to support a colleague – especially those who had been on the stage in La Boheme less than 24 hours previously!

Saturday night saw a performance of Opera Australia’s new production of Puccini’s La Boheme. Originally set in 1830s Paris the narrative was as much alive in director Gale Edwards’ late 1920’s liberal Berlin depicting an amorality that presaged a breakdown in society that allowed the growth of a dictatorship. Marvellous performances from Antoinette Halloran, Diego Torre, Taryn Fiebig, Andrew Jones,  Richard Anderson and Shane Lowrencev.

You can still catch these performances:

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Celestial Vivaldi is on again Wednesday 7th, Friday 9th and Saturday 10th September, 7 pm and Saturday the 10th September at 2 pm, at the City Recital Hall.

Edmond Choo presents ‘Romance Through Song’ performing Schumann’s Dichterliebe opus.48. He is joined by baritone Christopher Hillier and pianist Alison Hillier in a performance of art songs from Germany, France and Italy  on Sunday 18th September 2.30 pm at the Joan Sutherland Studio of the Opera Centre 480 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills. Tickets $30/$25 call 0438 455680 or

Opera Australia’s ‘La Boheme‘ is on at the Sydney Opera House till October 24th.

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