Benefit Concert as Paris Calls Barbara Graham

Benefit concert: Barbara Graham and friends including memebrs of Boutique Opera, in opera excerpts and other songs

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Sunday 18 April, 2pm

For a young soprano, Barbara Graham already has an impressive list of accomplishments: Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, PwC Malvina Major Emerging Artist with NBR New Zealand Opera, performances with New Zealand Opera, oratorio soloist, roles in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen with NIMBY opera, and recently, playing a superb Susanna in the garden performance of The Marriage of Figaro at Days Bay.

In the last-named she exhibited not only assured, beautiful singing, but also characterful acting.  The words of the witty, modern translation could be heard to good effect from her, as from all the singers.

On Sunday, she was surrounded by friends and mentors as fellow performers, in a well-filled church.  The programme began with excerpts from the afore-mentioned opera with her Days Bay Figaro, Daniel O’Connor, but this time they sang in Italian.  Sadly, we heard only three other operatic solos from Barbara – a fine aria from La Fille du Régiment, a pleasing ‘Je suis encor’ from Massenet’s Manon, and ‘Bess, you is my woman now’ from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, again with O’Connor.  This was well sung, but did not convey an image of earthy Bess, who has seen a lot of life. 

You may wish to include West Side Story as opera;‘A Boy like that’ was sung by Barbara with Jess Segal (mezzo-soprano) as Anita, with suitable style.  Appropriate movement and gesture were used, as indeed in many of the items.

The lovely trio ‘Soave sia’il vento’ from Così Fan Tutte was sung by Lesley Graham (Barbara’s mother, and her first singing teacher), Linden Loader (her current teacher) and Roger Wilson.
As always, it is a delight to listen to, though I thought Wilson could have been a little stronger.

Two duets from Barbara and tenor James Adams (who sang with great distinction) from Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne (performed by Boutique Opera last year) were effective.
Frances Moore (soprano) sang ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville well, but in places it was a little insecure.

Most of the remainder of the programme was in the light music category.  Notable was the ironic song ‘The Alto’s Lament’ wittily rendered by Wellington entertainer (of American origin) Jane Keller.  As an alto myself, I could empathise with her singing the various alto lines regretting that the sopranos carry the melodies.  Accompanist Julie Coulson entered into the thing, with appropriate gestures and facial expressions.

The singers were fortunate in the accomplished services of not one, not two, but three accompanists.  In addition to Coulson, there were Fiona McCabe (on a brief visit from her present base in Sydney) and Catherine Norton, shortly to take off for study in London.  It was impressive to hear these fine pianists tackling such a variety of music.

The remainder of the programme consisted of music from shows; they were performed with panache by the singers, who included, in addition to those already mentioned, Michael Gray (tenor), and Charles Wilson. Gray is always confident, projects well and delivers the character he is portraying.  Charles Wilson was part of a quartet with Lesley Graham, Linden Loader, and Roger Wilson in ‘Java Jive’.  He proved to have a pleasing baritone voice.

All the singers, plus other members of Boutique Opera, ended the concert with the beautiful chorus ‘Placido e’il mar’ from Mozart’s Idomeneo.  This was sung most attractively, and made a fitting conclusion.

A standing ovation proved that everyone present not only enjoyed the programme, but also wished Barbara Graham all good fortune in her vocal studies in Paris.  I am sure we will hear more of her.  Indeed, she would like to hear more from us: she still needs financial support for her travel and studies.  She can be contacted at 91 Fraser Avenue, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037; email