Arts / Visiting singers rock the rafters

Herdís Anna Jónasdóttir and Olafur Sigurdarson singing from “Don Giovanni”

“SINGERS carry their souls on the outside”, Icelandic baritone Olafur Sigurdarson told the delighted crowds at the German Ambassador’s residence this morning (July 7) before launching into a positively wicked scene from “Don Giovanni” with his fellow countrywoman, soprano Herdís Anna Jónasdóttir.

The occasion was a multinational brunch to unveil the program, which will be presented tomorrow night at Llewellyn Hall by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, and where artistic director Nicholas Milton will conduct six opera singers from the State Opera House of Saarbrücken in Germany, (which he also directs) in the annual Opera Gala.

The songs were interspersed with video messages from absent German ambassador Dr Anna Prinz, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and first lady Lucy Turnbull. The latter, by no coincidence had met Milton when the pair were sitting on the Australia-Germany Advisory Group set up to take the bilateral partnership to a new level.

That advisory group, we heard from the embassy’s Mrs Gerda Winkler, had issued a communiqué outlining of 59 items – she had no idea why there weren’t 60 – to cement relationships between Australia and Germany – “such a wonderful compatibility”, she said.

Chairman of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, Sir Angus Houston, declared himself over the moon that the CSO had been selected by both the Australian and German governments for this concert. He suggested that the happiness involved in this cultural exchange would be “quite contrary” to discussions going on in Hamburg at the moment that would doubtless focus on North Korea and international terrorism.

Milton outlined the massive load of organisation and getting to make arts organisations together and said: “Germany has given me so much and Australia has given me everything.”

He told those present that all the singers wanted to come back to Australia and described the enthusiasm that he felt at the first rehearsal with the orchestra last night. Reminding everyone that “these voices can carry over orchestras of 200 musicians”, he introduced the six visiting singers – who originally hail from Germany, Iceland, Chile and Japan – to perform little gems from the operatic and song repertoire, with soprano Susanne Brownsteffer’s rendition of Puccini’s “Vissi d’Arte” (I live for Art) summing up the feeling of the morning.

And Milton was right – the mighty voices of the visitors rocked the rafters of the residence.

Canberra Symphony Orchestra International Opera Gala, at Llewellyn Hall, 7.30pm, Saturday, July 8. Sold out.




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