Puccini to tear at the heartstrings in “Voices”

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HERE at “CityNews”, we’ve been checking our smartphones to see if there’s a message from “Voices in the Forest” about tomorrow’s likely weather, but so far it’s looking good.

Jose Carbo as Germont in La Traviata, photo courtesy of Opera Australia
Jose Carbo as Germont in La Traviata, photo courtesy of Opera Australia

A close look at the brochure on that came with our tickets, revealed that in the case of ‘extreme’ weather, the show would be transferred to the AIS Arena – not the same thing as music among the trees at all – but it looks as if all is well.

Very recently I caught up with one of the fabulous opera stars taking the stage tomorrow, Argentine-born but Australian-educated Jose Carbo. I was surprised by the Australian accent, but I shouldn’t have been, as he sees himself as an Aussie through and through.

Carbo originally wanted to be a carpenter until he realised computer-generated woodworking was on the rise, so opted for a career as one of Australia’s finest baritones – thank heavens for that. This year, he has been duly praised for his extraordinary dramatic performances on stage at the Sydney Opera House, notably as Germont, in La Traviata (to Canberra soprano Lorina Gore’s Violetta) and later as the conflicted character, Marquis Posa in “Don Carlos.”

Carbo is so much in demand these days that he doesn’t have much time to do these big these outdoor concerts, telling “Citynews”,, “hopefully one day all put some more effort into recitals. There is a personal intimacy that you don’t in a full opera.”

He is quick to clarify that he is not talking about lieder recitals, saying, “lieder is another beast altogether,” one that he tackled when he was young when he learnt a whole Schubert song cycle.

But those days are past, “ever since paid singing work took over.”

Initially trained in the bel canto style, Carbo has been coming to Canberra for a long time so his increasing sophistication as an actor is clear to all see him.

“You get to the point where you relax in your technique, you can put it aside and you could open up to the role,” he says.

Tomorrow’s concert at the National Arboretum, he says, is aiming at popularity, with “hit after hit.” Act II, for instance, will feature the best bits of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” in which he has played the baritone part of Marcello twice. It’s a favourite part and enjoys doing a duet with Rodolfo, sung by Mexican tenor Diego Torre, but even more, the Act III quartet where the two pairs of lovers sing tehri contrasting kinds of love.

“Don’t put Puccini down,” carbo advises the purists.

But Carbo hastens to assure me that he doesn’t mind singing a bit of early music too, especially the “stunning, stunning melodies” of Monteverdi. He approves the Act I programming that will see local artists Louise Page and Christine Wilson singing works by Handel, Gluck, Purcell and yes, Monteverdi.

Carbo praises the programming of director Chris Latham and also his openness to the singer’s suggestions. “We actually sat down and made it a perfect program, thanks to Chris for being open to that – they’re all stunning melodies,” he says.

The final act tomorrow night well be a real Top of the Pops lineup, with works by Rossini Verdi, Dvorak, Mascagni, Puccini – even Lloyd Webber and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

But Puccini will be the real star.

“‘La Boheme’ is tragedy dressed in refined and touchingly beautiful music – Puccini’s specialty”. But, Carbo reveals, his own Puccini favourite is “The Girl of the Golden West,” not often enough performed. “Wow, what an opera, he says, ” it tears at the heartstrings – he knew just how to do that!”

“Voices in the Forest” at the National Arboretum, November 21, bookings to canberraticketing.com.au or 6275 2700.

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Helen Musa
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