Hutt Valley Performing Arts Competitions Society
Aria Final, 2014
St. Andrew’s on The Terrace
Sunday, 7 September 2014, 7 pm
The adjudicator at this year’s senior vocal competitions was José Aparicio, from Hawke’s Bay. The aria competition attracted a record 23 entries, and eight finalists were called, rather than the usual six. The performers were all of a high standard, and the size of the audience was greater than it has sometimes been for this annual event.
Mark Dorrell accompanied all the finalists except one, in his usual splendid fashion; Tamara Buckland was accompanied by Catherine Norton – it was good to see the latter back in action in New Zealand after study overseas.
The concert was divided into two halves, with the competitors singing, in the same order, an aria in each half.
Compèring the evening was Georgia Jamieson Emms, summarising the plot of each opera for the audience. Throughout, she gave us introductions that were witty and well-expressed, of just the right length. Not only did she inform the audience, her ebullient turns of phrase must have helped to put the contestants at ease.
The evening opened with the rich, powerful voice of Tamara Buckland singing an aria from Massenet’s Werther. Buckland’s French was excellent, and she expressed the sentiments of the aria well.
Elisabeth Harris is dramatic both in appearance and voice; her low notes in “Give him this orchid” from Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia were full of delicious timbre. This was a difficult aria, with a very wide vocal range; the drama was all there in Harris’s face and voice. All in all, it was a very fine performance. Another Britten aria was next: “The embroidery aria” from Peter Grimes. The grim story was put over with very clear English words by Rebecca Howan. Her voice has a lovely quality of unforced clarity.
Hannah Jones also sang Gounod’s famous “Jewel” aria, and acted it out in gesture and facial expression. Her tone was very pleasing, though it was lost a little on the lowest notes and she sang slightly sharp at times, early on. This performance was also quite fast, but Jones was better able to manage the tempo. Many words needed more projection.
Olivia Sheat proved to be the possessor of a lovely voice. What with her clear words, the fact that her low notes were as clear as her high ones and her gorgeous rendition of the beautiful “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka by Dvořák, with its long-breathed notes. I was very impressed. She has great stage presence, and alone among the performances, I found her singing of this wonderful aria moving.
Katherine McIndoe’s performance of Mozart’s “Ah, ich fühl’s” from The Magic Flute was excellent, and she conveyed the mood well through her voice, but her face was completely bland, and she was a shade flat once or twice. Finally, the sole male in the contest, Christian Thurston (who came third in the recent Lexus Song Quest final) sang “Avant de quitter ces lieux”, another venture into Gounod’s Faust. His fine baritone was rich, and he gave a splendid performance.
After the break, we heard “Song to the Moon” again. Once more, Tamara Buckland made a great sound, but occasionally sustained notes did not stay on pitch.
Elisabeth Harris sang “O ma lyre immortelle” from Sappho by, yes, Gounod. The long legato lines were carried beautifully. This aria also exploited her excellent range and dramatic skills (and thrills). Rebecca Howan didn’t quite reach the standard of her first aria, but she shows promise. “O war’ ich schon mit dir vereint” from Fidelio by Beethoven was perhaps a little too demanding for a young singer.
Hannah Jones followed with “Quel guardo il cavaliere” from Don Pasquale by Donizetti. This gave her the opportunity for good facial and musical expression, since it is humorous in its effect. The words needed to be clearer through being projected more, but it was a fine performance in other respects. Olivia Sheat gave another attractive performance, full of character and nuance, this time with Puccini’s “Quando m’en vo” from La Bohème. She told the story that Musetta was conveying, and had me smiling.
Katherine McIndoe made a more accomplished and involving performance this time, of the difficult aria “No word from Tom”, from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. To end the evening’s singing, Christian Thurston sang “Per me giunto… O Carlo ascolta” from Verdi’s Don Carlos. As probably the most experienced singer in the group, it was appropriate that he was the only one to sing Verdi. He evinced great breath control, but I found some of his notes rather muddied.
Some words from the adjudicator were not all easily heard; unfortunately he did not use the microphone, so I missed most of them. Awards were: 1st prize of $4000 from the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and Rosina Buckman Memorial Cup, to Christian Thurston; 2nd prize $1000 from the New Zealand Opera Society, to Elisabeth Harris. The Robin Dumbell Cup for the singer with the most potential went to Olivia Sheat; the Rokfire Cup for most outstanding competitor throughout the senior vocal classes, to Katherine McIndoe. The Jenny Wollerman award of $200 for the best rendition of a song or aria in French was won by Hannah Jones, and the $200 Patricia Hurley Opera Tours award for the best song or aria in Italian by Katherine McIndoe.
Congratulations to all the winners, and to The Hutt Valley Performing Arts Competitions Society for encouraging young singers and putting on a splendid evening of singing.