‘Operamania’ reviewed.

Operamania is an opportunity to hear an ensemble of Russian classical performers, doing what they do best.

The ensemble of 44 orchestral musicians, conducted by Andrei Lebdev, 10 singers,  4 dancers and a pianist from the Novaya Opera of Moscow presented an evening of Classical and Romantic favourites from opera, ballet and symphonic works. Projected behind them were images of art works from the Russian canon which enhanced the stories being told on the stage. The semi-staged programme aimed to entertain without shying away from serious challenge.

The music moved in bite sized pieces from Bizet’s Carmen, to a Mozart medley, excerpts from Rachmaninov and Tchaikowsky to three perennials by J Strauss I and II. These and the other favourites on offer might well have turned classical music infidels had they been present.

Short of travelling to Russia, or waiting for tours by the major Russian companies or soloists, Sydney-siders would rarely experience live, the talent of Russian musicians and the results that their traditions of training produce. Tenor Oleg Dolgov’s Nessun dorma and La donna e mobile and tenor Yaroslav Abaimov’s  Ah, lève-toi, soleil from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet were both rich in tone and power, yet lyrical and impassioned. Elena Terentyeva’s Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen from Mozart‘s The Magic Flute was ably accomplished with some moments of ambivalence in this aria which is as fearsome to perform as the character who sings it; Elizaveta Soina’s Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma was also impressive, as was pianist Ekaterina Kolpakova and the four dancers from the Russian Imperial Ballet.

The artists managed well given that despite the high calibre of Sydney’s City Recital Hall as a concert venue, this production and the number of performers really needed a larger arena. On the up-side, the intimacy afforded a sound that was immediate rather than distant. Managing without a closed-circuit TV, conductor Andrei Lebdev, kept a tight ensemble despite having to work with the singers and dancers at his back.

If a programme of edited highlights leaves you thirsting for more, then the draw-cards in Operamania are the performers. Look beyond the editing, the at times puzzling staging and the naive props and just have fun.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney© 

Click here to read Peter MacCallum’s review in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Operamania is at the City Recital Hall, Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday 16th and 17th April 2013 at 7.30 pm.

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