The Opera And Song Collective Launches 2024 Season

The Opera and Song Collective (TOSC) presented an appealing program of sacred vocal music curated by mezzo-soprano Jill Sullivan, under the musical direction of Simon Kenway with Jassen Rose at the pipe organ.

Back in the dark days of lockdown, musicians, especially singers had no opportunities to learn, perform or sing together. It was these limitations which gave rise to the project that became The Opera and Song Collective, with singers grasping the opportunity to learn new material and to sing online.

Based in Sydney, TOSC has since begun to present live productions. Their first concert Into the Light, in late 2021, featured arias from Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen, followed by a segment from Dvořák’s Rusalka.

TOSC’s concerts in 2023, were themed around Opera Queens, which toured to Brisbane, the writings of Shakespeare, Scandinavian Music and Better Angels, with arias and ensembles by Beethoven, Handel, Lehar, Mozart, Puccini and Tchaikovsky, with some less commonly performed works by Adamo, Gluck, Poulenc and Weber, all inspired the idea of “generosity of spirit.”

Performing in the 1864 Edmund Blacket designed St Peter’s Church in Watson’s Bay and the previous day in North Sydney, TOSC launched its 2024 program with an ensemble comprising Dana Kingsford, Kerry Nicholson, Laura Scandizzo, Anna Tafani and Emily Turner taking the soprano line with altos Genevieve Dickson, Daniella Ehrlich, Deborah Rogers and Jill Sullivan. The singers include members of opera company choruses from around Australia and overseas as well as alumni of Pacific Opera.

They performed a program of sacred choral works with Rose performing Liszt’s Ave Maria d’Acudelt on the organ in an engaging instrumental interlude. According to the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, the organ in the west gallery of St Peter’s is “probably: the oldest pipe organ in Sydney and was installed in the church in 1920.

The full ensemble gathered to display the power and beauty of the female voice in Poulenc’s Litanies à la vierge noire, written for a chorus of women or children, with organ accompaniment. Singing in French, the ensemble, directed by Kenway achieved a Gallic shimmering tone, taken to a more focussed level with the duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano Ave Maria, by Saint-Saëns sung by Laura Scandizzo and Jill Sullivan.

Rose’s instrumental interlude on the organ was followed by the evergreen motet Stabat Mater by Pergolesi, with many highlights for both soloists and ensemble requiring a style of interpretation very different to operatic repertoire.

TOSC, in its mission statement “aims to bring joy to its audiences and satisfaction to its artists through excellence in the preparation, presentation and performance of song and excerpts from stage works that are popular and which also less commonly grace Australia platforms, including works by Australian composers. Its performances aim to include audiences less able to attend performances by virtue of distance, infirmity or other barrier.”

This pleasant Sunday afternoon indeed was an opportunity for musicians and audience to engage with rarely heard repertoire in an intimate and historic venue, in a city where opera and music theatre are seemingly popular but where art song, recitals and smaller chamber works are sorely neglected. TOSC is also an important opportunity for emerging singers to perform alongside more experienced performers.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

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