Hamilton Gardens, Medici Court, Hamilton

27/02/2019 - 28/02/2019

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Fabulous opera in the Medici Court. 

Following sell-out concerts in previous years, Opera Brava have put together a new programme of highlights from some of the world’s most loved operas. This will feature works by beloved composers such as Bellini, Donizetti, Humperdinck, Massenet, Monteverdi, Mozart, Offenbach, Puccini, Sullivan and Verdi, captivating you with well-known gems from the popular operatic repertoire. Performed with great pleasure by Pamela Wallace (sop), Elaine Wogan (sop), Sarah Court (mezzo) and Andrew Grenon (tenor) accompanied by Francis Cowan.

“…exactly those wonderful moments of emotion, comic and dramatic situations, and the vocal and musical variety which are opera – and we loved it…” – Stuff.co.nz

Medici Court
Wednesday 27 – Thursday 28 Feb 2019
$38 General Admission
$35 Concession
*Booking fees apply

Theatre , Opera ,

A night of absolute pleasure

Review by Gail Pittaway 28th Feb 2019

A beautiful garden, a beautiful night and glorious singers singing opera greats in the outdoors. There aren’t many better ways of spending a late summer twilight. For the past few years, each time Opera Brava have presented a season in the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, it’s been a sell-out, so clearly the night of opera never fails to impress and delight.

The incomparable compere and director, John Drummond, holds the show and audience in his hands as he guides us through four centuries of opera, often wittily remarking on the improbability of the plot or setting, the history of the production or composition of each piece, or stories of the composers themselves. 

This year’s show is performed by a quartet of talent, mostly local singers but each with a wider reputation. Solo, duet, trio and quartets, the voices of Elaine Wogan and Pamela Wallace, Sopranos, and Sarah Court, Mezzo Soprano are joined by Andrew Grenon Tenor, to provide a rich and delectable menu.

None would be possible without the unflappable and prodigious talent of Mr Frances Cowan on keyboards, so in all it’s a sophisticated, polished and accessible night, especially to those like me who love hearing opera but don’t know the repertoire in detail.

Above all the skill and technique of these great performers is evident as they perform live and without microphones or technical assistance. Lovely, too, to enjoy the glamourous frocks and dickie suits.

We are given a mixture of light and serious pieces to entice us into this specialised art form, beginning with a flirty Offenbach duet, from Grenon and Court, moving on to the famous cat duet, Pamela Wallace all teeth and claws and simpering trouble. In complete contrast Wallace later returns to give a moving performance of a Puccini aria from Tosca.

We move through the greats – Donizetti, Massenet, Mozart, to Bellini’s Norma, about a druid priestess we are told, with Drummond’s eye-browsarched ironically, set during the Roman occupation of Gaul.

The second half opens with a series of satirical songs starting with the ladies singing ‘Three Little Maids from School’, from the Mikado. Then follow two very funny numbers where Grenon really shows his skill as a comic performer, in Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Masochism Tango’ and in a duet from the popular operetta Spamalot, with Pamela Wallace, who has already demonstrated her acting powers. Their duet, ‘The Song That Goes Like This’, plays with the convention of music theatre plots and styles, with a romantic lyrical duet about romantic lyrical duets.

The Medici Court, with its semicircular tiered seating facing a wall of Virginia creeper climbing up to a terrace with arched colonnades, is a perfect stage set and both parts of the space are used for visual and tonal variety. The passageway leading into the vast Italian Garden beyond is also used to great effect, once in Elaine Wogan’s perfect rendition of Verdi’s aria from the Force of Destiny, set outside the cave in which Leonora’s has been in self-imposed seclusion.  Also, the thoughtfully chosen finale quartet, from Madame Butterfly by Puccini, places all singers off stage, in the tunnel, with only their voices lifting out into the night to the subtle changes of lighting on the colonnades. 

One of the highlights of the show for me is the oldest piece, a duet between Nero and Poppea in Monterverdi’s Coronation of Poppea, with Nero a ‘trouser role’ (sung by a female voice). Wogan and Court are perfectly matched in voice and sing with great purity, framed by the upper terrace arches in the gardenasthe night deepens. A moment of musical magic in a night of absolute pleasure.


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