Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Sydney Aria

When most people think of Sydney one thing comes to mind: the Sydney Opera House. With its intriguing architecture and famously impressive acoustics, the Opera House features highly on many people’s bucket lists and I’m no different. As soon as BBS mentioned going to Australia with me I told him my only wish for Sydney was to catch a performance at the Opera House.

We vacillated for weeks ahead of time attempting to decide what we would see during BBS’s short window of time. After some debate we finally settled on the 33rd Annual Highlights of Opera featuring the SBS Youth Orchestra. Rather than watching an entire opera, the Youth Orchestra would accompany a series of professional opera singers performing a selection of pieces from a variety of operas.

Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, Jørn Utzon’s architectural masterpiece sits on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour not far from the hotel BBS and I were staying. The series of shells that make up the iconic roof make an impression whether seen from a nearby rooftop or, perhaps more impressively, from within the Opera House itself.

The performance we saw that night was impressive and definitely left me planning to see a proper opera before I eventually leave Sydney. The Youth Orchestra, to my untrained ear, was suitably impressive with only a few audibly off notes over the course of the night. Although not all the kids on the stage were talented enough to go onto become professionals, conductor Stephen Mould has good reason to be proud of the talented musicians we heard that evening.

I am not, it should be noted, an opera aficionado and I was pleased and surprised by how many pieces I recognized once I heard them. Papageno (or Pa, Pa, Pa) from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, for example, didn’t click when I read it on the program. Only moments into Angela Brun and Christopher Hillier’s uneven performance I was instantly able to mentally sing along.

As vaguely alluded to by one of the night’s honorees, Hillier was vastly outclassed by virtually everyone. Last minute replacement Warwick Fyfe, on the other hand, whose impressive baritone left everyone longing for more after his Hai Gia Vinta la Causa from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was a pleasure to listen to.

Brun’s later sublime performance of Leo Delibes’s The Bell Song from Lakmé was one of the highlights of the night and raised one of the rare ovations of the evening. The only other person to whom that honour was extended was fan favourite Dominica Matthews’ performance of Seguedilla from Bizet’s Carmen. The only person who changed costumes for her pieces rather than donning an evening gown, Matthews added a sense of fun with her flair for drama every time she took the stage.

The true find of the evening, however, was tenor David Corcoran whose initial foray on stage with Dies Bildnis from The Magic Flute caused BBS to wonder aloud whether he had written the lyrics on the back of his hand. (He was actually pretending it was the mirror he would have had in hand for the real opera.) His later performance from Verdi’s Rigoletto was outstanding. One of the youngest singers to take the stage that night, Corcoran was a one-time recipient of the Moffatt Oxenbould Young Artists Development Program awarded by the night’s sponsors, the Australian Opera Auditions Committee.

The final performance of the evening from La Traviata left me humming as I left the Opera House. I realize that opera isn’t for everyone but a night like this with snippets of different composers is a great introduction to the medium. Whether it was the talented kids, the gifted singers, or the fantastically impressive surroundings my night out at the opera exceeded my hopes for my evening at the opera.


Miss Footloose said...

It sounds like you had a very interesting time inspite of not being an opera lover. To my shame I must admit I've never actually watched an opera.

I have been to Sydney and walked around the Opera House. A fabulous building!

Traveling gives us so many opportunities to do new things. Enjoy!

ladyfi said...

Oh, what a glorious experience! The architecture, the music, the talent! A once in a lifetime experience.

Karen Peterson said...

The only opera I've ever seen was La Boheme and I loved it so much. I really want to go to the Sydney Opera House. It's definitely on MY bucket list!

Gaston Studio said...

Got interested in opera while living in Egypt... that was one thing we had that was really good in Cairo.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember you went to Aida in Cairo, Typ0?
And the Sydney Opera is on my bucket list too. Someday...

sprinkles said...

I'm not an opera lover at all but I wouldn't mind seeing a program at the Sydney Opera House.