Review / Superb showcase of local stars

Music / “Opera Gala”. Canberra Youth Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, March 24. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE

Trumpeter Samuel Huchinson and the Canberra Youth Orchestra. Photo by Kyra Ueckert-Smith

IT’S concerts like this that really show the wealth of superb talent we have right here in the nation’s capital – our backyard.

Toby Cole at rehearsals for the “Opera Gala”. Photo by Kyra Ueckert-Smith

One would have to travel a very long distance to find better singers than our own Louise Page, Tobias Cole and Sarahlouise Owens, who were the special guest artists of the Canberra Youth Orchestra.

The CYO gave a splendid performance, with conductor, Leonard Weiss leading them brilliantly in the rather exacting task of accompanying opera soloists.

Things got underway quite nicely, if a tad slow, with the conclusion to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, introduced confidently with very nice, solid playing from the brass sections.

The second half, too, opened with an instrumental piece, selections from Bizet’s “Carmen Suites”. Again the tempo was a little ponderous, losing some of the exciting brilliance of the work, particularly in “Toreador’s Song”, but Samuel Huchinson’s trumpet more than did the work justice.

And Hutchinson acquitted himself brilliantly in his performance with counter-tenor Tobias Cole in “Va tacito e nascosto”, one of several arias from Handel’s “Julius Caesar in Egypt” (where he falls in love with Cleopatra) presented in this concert.

The orchestral accompaniment of the Handel works was excellent, notwithstanding Weiss had the playing sounding rather more from the Romantic period than the Baroque.

But Romantic period playing was perfect for Donizetti’s opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”, from which Louise Page performed the aria, “Il dolce suono”, in which Lucia waxes and wanes from madness to serenity, and from anger to satisfaction, after stabbing to death her new husband – in the wedding chamber! Well, she didn’t love him anyway.

Donizetti called for a glass harmonica to accompany this aria. But in this concert, the audience was treated to a truly sublime performance from flautist, Serena Ford, who beautifully mirrored Page’s lovely, lyrical voice perfectly at every turn.

Another highlight was a superb performance by Sarahlouise Owens of “E Strano!” and “Sempre Libera” from Verdi’s famous opera “La Traviata”, in which Violetta wonders whether Alfredo is “the one” but then decides she likes her freedom. This piece certainly was a crowd pleaser with Owens getting very much in character and singing the huge vocal range of the piece brilliantly.

All three singers, with Cole dropping his vocal range to the tenor register, and the Canberra Youth Orchestra closed the concert with the famous drinking song from “La Traviata”, complete with clinking (in tune) glasses of champagne. It brought a thoroughly entertaining and engaging concert to a delightful, up-beat conclusion.

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