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Review: Morning Melodies Opera Concert

posted 1 Jul 2013, 21:05 by Thomas Friberg

Reviewer: Carol Flavell Neist 
Opera Concert 
His Majesty's Theatre 

If anything, this Morning Melodies Opera Concert was even better than last year’s offering – and last year’s offering was very good indeed. Five young artists, with the benefit of some very skilled and imaginative direction, delivered an hour of operatic bliss to a packed house.
 
Soprano Emma Pettermides is a chorus member of the WA Opera. I could find no further information on this fine performer, which is disappointing. She’s obviously experienced and very well-trained, but she needs a web site, a blog and a Facebook page! Pettermides gave us excerpts from works as disparate as Don Giovanni and West Side Story, all delivered with flair and expression. Her renderings of popular favourites such as the Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus made her an instant hit with the enthusiastic audience.
 
Mezzo soprano Caitlin Cassidy (not to be confused with the American entertainer of the same name!) holds the Wesfarmers Scholarship as a Young Artist with the WA Opera. She is also approaching the end of a Master of Creative Arts degree at WAAPA. Cassidy demonstrated from the very first item that she is a talent to watch. She is not only a fine mezzo, she is also comical and she obviously enjoys performing. Her voice is well-suited to the classics of Mozart and Rossini, yet she also gave us the very funny ‘Alto’s Lament’, with lyrics by Marcy Heisler and music by Zina Goldrich.
 
Not familiar with this entertaining – and, sadly, very true – song? Hie thee to thy favourite download site and seek it out. Several recorded versions are available, including one by the song’s creators, but I defy any of them to better Cassidy’s performance. She is the only one of these performers to have appeared in last year’s Morning Melodies concert, and her work this year is even better than before. She has grown considerably in confidence and presence.
 
Richard Symons, tenor, is singing with the WA Opera, but as with Emma Pettermides, he seems to be publicity-shy and I could find no further information on this talented artist. He was, perhaps, a trifle nervous in the first solo of the concert, ‘Ecco Ridente’ from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, and as a result sounded slightly strained. But as the show wore on, he relaxed and showed himself to be a most promising tenor. His voice blended beautifully with that of Pettermides in the duet from The Merry Widow, here titled ‘Love Unspoken’. (This lilting triple-time opus turns up under various names in English: you might know it as ‘Forbidden Words’, or simply as ‘The Merry Widow Waltz’.) Like the other popular classic numbers on the program, this one was well-received.
 
Tom Friberg, baritone, is studying mechanical engineering and physics, but he is well-known around the singing traps as well. He has sung with the St George's Cathedral Consort, The National Youth Choir of Great Britain, The Oxford Bach Choir, and the Kings College London Opera Society, as well as the WA Opera. Friberg was seldom offstage from the opening number, ‘Zitti, Zitti’ from The Barber of Seville to the final quartet, ‘One Day More’ from Les Misérables. Quietly professional, he supported the other singers in duets and group numbers as well as giving us a convincing rendition of the ‘Catalogue’ aria from Don Giovanni. This is usually played as a serious scene, which ends with the lovelorn Elvira vowing vengeance on her betrayer, but Caitlin Cassidy lightened it by her inherent humorous streak without ever upstaging Friberg’s Leporello. Rather than anguish, Cassidy’s Elvira gave us a ‘Well, what the hell do you expect’ kind of cynicism, which worked well in this context.
 
Friberg then switched roles to join Pettermides in the lovely duet for Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira, ‘Là ci darem la mano’. Their voices blend well. Friberg has an enviable talent in his ability to match his voice to those of other singers.
 
Incidentally, Don Giovanni is to be the next WA Opera production. You can catch it at His Majesty’s between 18-27 July.
 
Pianist Lochlan Brown, ex WAAPA and UWA, holds the Bendat Scholarship as a current Young Artist of the opera. This is another performer who needs to publicise himself more. He has a gift worth boasting about, demonstrated not only by his sympathetic accompanying but also by a dashing rendition of Granados’s Spanish Dance no. 5 in his half-time solo spot. Brown was, of course, on stage the whole time, playing with accuracy and élan throughout.
 
The program gradually became lighter. Leaving Rossini and Mozart for Johan Strauss, thence through Gilbert and Sullivan to Franz Lehár, Rogers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and Schönberg, the audience became more and more enthusiastic as they were whisked through favourites from the late 19th and 20th centuries. Especially well-received was the encore number, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, popularised by Liverpudlian pop group Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963. This song is much-loved by association football aficionados around the world, and is particularly associated with the Liverpool Football Club, but never did Gerry and his mates or any football crowd out-sing our doughty Young Artists.
 
In reviewing last year’s Opera Concert, my criticism was that the singers did not act well. That has been well and truly remedied with this crew. Margrete Hegelby, a former member of the WA Ballet, directed the production, and her understanding of the connection between movement and character has rubbed off on our young quartet. They even threw in the odd little dance step when the music and characterisation permitted it. Thank you, Margrete Hegelby, and thanks also to Burhan Gȕner and his skilful musical direction. The entire show was an utter delight.
 
Rating: 4½ stars out of 5
 
The West Australian Opera and His Majesty’s Theatre present
Morning Melodies Opera Concert
Director: Margrete Hegelby
Musical Direction: Burhan Gűner
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