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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Opera gems warm a gloomy, wet afternoon

Alira Prideaux and Sitiveni Talei perform at National Opera Chorus’ Opera Gems for a Winter’s Eve. Photo: Dalice Trost

Music / Opera Gems for a Winter’s Eve, National Opera Chorus. At The Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, June 30. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

National Opera came up with the perfect diversion for a gloomy wet Canberra Sunday afternoon by presenting an afternoon of rousing opera choruses which drew a capacity audience to the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

Neatly turned out, books in hand, 28 members of the chorus worked their way through a demanding selection of opera choruses by composers as varied as Verdi, Donizetti, Mozart, Lehar, Ponchielli and Schubert.

Despite the solemnity of some of the choruses, conductor Louis Sharpe kept the atmosphere buoyant by offering amusing introductions to each of the items, and accompanist Rebecca Simon proved an impressive substitute for an opera orchestra. 

The program commenced with a confident rendition by the full chorus of the stirring D’Immenso Giubilo from Donizetti’s bel canto opera Lucia di Lammermoor in which Sitiveni Talei impressed with the tenor solo.

Two choruses from rarely heard operas followed. The lovely Sul Brando La Mano from Ponchielli’s I Lituani, and Spuntato from Verdi’s Don Carlo in which Terry Johnson sang the solo. 

A section of the National Opera Chorus. Photo: Dalice Trost

National Opera is about to begin rehearsals for its forthcoming production of The Merry Widow, so what better opportunity to preview the production than with a charming rendition of Vilia, by Sarah Darnley-Stuart, who will play the role of the widow in its production. Following which Katrina Wiseman and Andrew Barrow led the chorus in the spirited Libiamo from Verdi’s La Traviata.

The second half of the program commenced with the finale from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, followed by the Shepherd’s Chorus from Schubert’s Rosamunde and Rataplan from Verdi’s La Forza, the latter featuring soprano Keren Dalzell-Woodlock in sparkling form.

Alira Prideaux had a Cinderella moment during her cheeky duet with Sitivene Talei who threatened to bring the house down with their rendition of Pa-Pa-Pa from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, after which everyone regained composure to perform the stirring Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco.

The program officially ended with an excellent account of the finale from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, but of course the audience wasn’t going to let the afternoon end without an encore, so with very little encouragement from conductor Sharpe, joined with the chorus for a hearty rendition of the famous Anvil Chorus. 


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