Arias from opera; songs
New Zealand School of Music: Vocal students of Richard Greager, Jenny Wollerman, Margaret Medlyn and Lisa Harper-Brown, with Mark Dorrell (piano)
Rotary Foyer, Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre, Upper Hutt
Tuesday 9 October 2012, 1pm
This was the last of a monthly series of free concerts given by performance students from the New Zealand School of Music. It attracted a full house, there being over 100 people present. It was the same last year; obviously hearing singers is particularly attractive to the music-lovers of Upper Hutt. All the singers presented their items with poise and confidence. There was a mixture of arias from opera, and songs.
The foyer has a fine acoustic, and both pianist and singers did well there. There is a café sharing the space, and this meant a certain amount of noise. However, it was seldom very loud, nor was it constant, so it made a pleasant, informal venue .
Baritone Christian Thurston opened the programme with ‘Alla vita che t’arride’ from Un Ballo in Maschera by Verdi. Just over a week ago, Thurston made a very fine Figaro in a concert of opera excerpts by NZSM students, at the Adam Concert Room. He has a wonderfully rich voice, very Verdian, well controlled and produced with good support. After a spoken introduction, he sang confidently and clearly; his runs were particularly good.
Next we heard from soprano Christina Orgias. Her introductions her three songs were among the best for fluency and meaningful presentation – and these characteristics were true of her singing also. Her mature voice has a natural resonance, quite a lot of vibrato, and plenty of volume. ‘Before my window’ by Rachmaninov was gorgeous.
Amelia Ryman (soprano) sang firstly ‘The Trees on the Mountains’, from Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 opera, Susannah (not the Liszt song shown in the programme). This singer has a powerful voice, but it was beautifully controlled. She gave a very pleasing performance of the aria, with subtlety, and the appropriate American accent.
Jamie Henare (bass) sang perhaps the saddest song in Schubert’s song cycle Der Winterreise: ‘Der Leiermann’ (The organ-grinder). His German language was good, but the song was not sufficiently well projected in the quiet passages. However, his voice has a very pleasing quality.
Excellent German articulation was heard from Christina Orgias in her second song: ‘O wüsst’ ich doch den Weg zurück’ by Brahms. She conveyed the mood of homesickness, the theme of this song, very well.
Soprano Elita McDonald followed, with a Richard Strauss song, ‘Die Nacht’. Her voice has a lovely quality, and seemed just right for Strauss, though the lower notes were a bit out of her range; however, her high notes were pure and delightful. Hers, too, was a very good spoken introduction.
Strauss returned, this time with Christian Thurston singing ‘Zueignung’. I enjoyed neither his rather unclear introduction nor the song so well. I would rather hear it sung by a mezzo or a soprano. A low voice simply cannot demonstrate that marvellous ecstatic lift that the composer has given to this wonderful song.
Jamie Henare’s first aria was from La Bohème: ‘Vecchia zimarra’, in which Colline sings about having to sell his old coat in order to have money to buy medicine for the ailing Mimi. This suited him better than the Schubert song – and speaking of suits, he had an old coat with him as a prop.
Then came the undoubted star of the show, Isabella Moore. The three items she sang were certainly longer than those performed by her fellow-students, and done to a greater level of proficiency. First, also from Puccini’s La Bohème, ‘Si, mi chiamano Mimi’. This well-loved aria was sang with a naturalness, confidence and assurance presaged by her introduction. She used gesture well, but it was her voice that drew the attention. She has a great voice, which she uses with intelligence and subtlety. With it, she could grace the operatic stage right now. This was a wonderfully moving performance, with superb tone and excellent projection.
Amelia Ryman followed up with ‘Daphne’, one of William Walton’s setting of Edith Sitwell texts. This was a bright performance, but the voice was rather shrill at the top.
Elita McDonald returned to sing Vaughan Williams’s very lovely song ‘Silent Noon’. This was beautifully and expressively sung, but could have done with a little more delicacy in places.
Now for something completely different: Isabella Moore sang Benjamin Britten’s witty cabaret song ‘Johnny’; the words by W.H. Auden. This is heard not infrequently, but a rendition that was memorable for me, over 20 years ago, was by Sarah Walker, the English mezzo, when she visited New Zealand. Moore’s performance was well up with this high standard, her facial expressions and use of the words making it fully characterised.
Jamie Henare completed his trilogy with ‘Ho capito, Signor si!’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. This received a better introduction than did his previous two items. The voice quality was fine, but there was not enough projection of the character. The Don is being addressed by the hapless country lad Masetto, who is fearful for his girlfriend Zerlina’s virtue, with the Don about to be alone with her. This all came over as too pat, too glib. Yes, many of us know the aria, but it must appear to be freshly minted for each performance.
Mozart was the composer of the next aria also: ‘Come scoglio’ from Così fan Tutte, sung by Christina Orgias. This aria incorporates a lot of florid singing which the singer executed well, with a commendable variety of dynamics. She varied the words intelligently, and gave a completely characterised Fiordiligi.
Christian Thurston’s last aria was ‘Questo amor, vergogna mia’ from Edgar by Puccini. He gave a very fine performance.
The recital ended appropriately with Isabella Moore, who sang from Massenet’s Herodiade Salome’s aria ‘Il est doux, il est bon’, about her infatuation with John the Baptist. Moore’s language was again immaculate. She gave a very expressive and brilliant performance; in fact, she was the compleat singer.
It was noticeable that this singer was the only one to mention accompanist Mark Dorrell as a fellow performer, and to gesture her thanks to him at the end of each of her items. The audience rewarded singers and pianist with hearty applause.
Music hath charms… and the audience was certainly charmed by this recital by promising singing students, accompanied throughout by the incomparable, or should we say unashamed, accompanist.