Arias from opera; songs
New Zealand School of Music: Vocal students of Richard Greager, Jenny Wollerman and Flora Edwards, with Mark Dorrell (piano)
Rotary Foyer, Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre, Upper Hutt
Tuesday 18 October 2011, 2pm
This was the last of a monthly series of free concerts given by performance students from the New Zealand School of Music, that began in March. It attracted a full house, there being over 100 people present. All the singers presented their items with poise and confidence, and most were formally dressed. Up to the last four items, all except three were from opera.
The foyer has a fine acoustic, and both pianist and singers seemed able to perform well there. There is a café sharing the space, and this meant a certain amount of chatter and clatter, not to mention delicious aromas. However, it was never very loud, nor was there constant noise, so on balance, it made a pleasant, somewhat informal venue – more literally chamber music than is usually the case.
Due to road-works near the venue and the resulting traffic jam, and also the paucity of parking in the daytime, I missed the first two items, unfortunately. They were Handel’s ‘Ombrai mai fu’ from Xerxes, sung by Thomas Atkins, and ‘Che faro senza Euridice’ from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, performed by Emily Simcox. These two arias would have made a pleasingly familiar start to the concert.
Thomas Barker gave a spirited introduction to his Mozart aria ‘Non piu andrai’ from Le Nozze di Figaro, sang it in like vein, and acted it out with bravado. The same composer’s ‘Il mio tesoro’ from Don Giovanni was performed by Thomas Atkins. While he had plenty of force, he also had a lovely tone, and skilled negotiation of the florid passages.
Angelique Macdonald sang Gabriel Fauré’s song Clair de lune, which she introduced. Her French language was very good, but her voice was rather shrill at the top, for this acoustic, while it might be fine in an opera house.
Smetana’s ‘O jaký žal’ from The Bartered Bride was next, sung by Amelia Ryman. This singer has a powerful voice, but it was beautifully controlled. She gave a very dramatic performance of the aria.
Thomas O’Brien performed ‘Kuda, kuda’ from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky. His Russian language sounded good, and the aria was competently sung, but the voice needs to grow somewhat in size to sing this aria as it deserves. The top of the range was a little insecure, but the singer paid great attention to detail.
Still in Russia were two songs by Rachmaninov, sung by Angelique Macdonald. The printed programme gave the English translations of the titles: ‘Before my window’ and ‘How fair [is?] this place’. There were some fine, soft top notes, and the singer varied her voice attractively. She put these songs over disarmingly. However, her breathing was noisy at times.
Verdi was represented by the well-known ‘Questa o quella’ from Rigoletto, sung by Thomas Atkins. This really suited the singer’s voice, which has developed since I heard him some months ago. He has a ringing top, and his production of the words was excellent. This was a most satisfying performance.
Angelique Macdonald sang again, this time a famous aria from Turandot by Puccini: ‘Signore ascolta’, which she introduced. This is her forte – in more than one sense. It was a very good rendition, but she needs a little more mellowness and warmth in the voice.
It was pleasing to hear a New Zealand song: a poem of James K. Baxter’s simply titled Song by the composer, Anthony Ritchie. It was thoughtfully sung by Amelia Ryman. The words were very clear indeed, the tone was gorgeous, and all in all it was an absolutely lovely realisation of a skilled composition.
Cole Porter’s song Miss Otis Regrets brought a laugh from the audience at the end, but Emily Simcox sang it too ‘straight’. She has a beautiful, natural voice, but there was insufficient expression, and she made the song seem almost routine. Words were clear, but I think a lady in society would say ‘today’, not ‘tiday’. The song cried out for more vocal and facial expression.
Schönberg (Claude-Michel, not Arnold) was the composer of the popular Les Miserables, from which Thomas Barker sang ‘Stars’, with flair and aplomb. It was a strong and impassioned performance, in which he used his voice appropriately for the style of music. He was undoubtedly more flamboyant than the other performers, but has a good voice to go with it.
The concert ended less successfully, with a trio (Ryman, Macdonald and O’Brien) from Mozart’s Mass in C minor, K.427: ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’. While most of the items performed would have been written for orchestra, somehow it didn’t seem to matter that a piano was used in the solos, but it did in the Mass excerpt. O’Brien’s voice not being as strong as those of the women, meant the trio was not well balanced, and coming at the end of a recital of secular songs and arias, it did not fit well.
Nevertheless, overall this was a superb recital, demonstrating the talents and skills of the students, and the excellence of the teaching they receive.