Hamilton Gardens, Medici Court, Hamilton

24/02/2016 - 25/02/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

Following sold out concerts in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Opera Brava are back! 

Join Elaine Wogan, Pamela Wallace and Ian Campbell, accompanied by David Woodcock, on a voyage through opera with a programme featuring works by some of the world’s greatest composers.

The show will include well-known gems from The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, Carmen, Cosi Fan Tutte, Norma, Lakmea and La Traviata.

Early booking is recommended.

Medici Court 
Wed 24 & Thurs 25 Feb 2016
7:00pm Wed
7:30pm Thurs 
Tickets:  $30

Theatre , Opera ,

Delights a full audience

Review by Nick Braae 25th Feb 2016

The opening gambit in the advertising for Opera at Twilight is “following sold-out performances in 2013, 2014 and 2015…” Add 2016 to the list. On a balmy Hamilton evening, with cicadas singing and the sun setting behind Medici Court, Opera Brava returns to the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival for a whirlwind journey through operatic favourites.  

The 2016 lineup once again features seasoned Waikato sopranos Pamela Wallace and Elaine Wogan; after an unfortunate vocal injury to Ian Campbell, promising young baritone Clinton Fung stepped into the production three weeks ago. This late replacement necessitated a change in programming for the evening: not that one would have realised otherwise.

The repertoire spans a reasonably narrow stylistic range: Mozart is prominent, with a couple of excerpts from each of The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni; Italian composers (Puccini, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti) dominate the remainder of the programme. Each ‘act’ begins with an operatic prelude played by pianist David Woodcock (Act 1 from Verdi’s La Traviata, and Act 3 from Bizet’s Carmen). These set the mood nicely, although on both occasions I find myself wanting his left hand to be a little more forceful. A mix of solos and duets follow, before each act finishes with a trio.

The three singers bring different qualities to the performance. Fung’s voice is the least resonant of the three, which leaves him slightly exposed in his solo excerpts, but he adds flair and charisma through his stage presence, particularly in the duets. Wogan’s virtuosity and dynamic range are frequently impressive, particularly in ‘Sempre Libera’ from La Traviata at the end of the first act.

Wallace showcases her experience throughout the evening. Her two arias of the second act – ‘Una voce poco fa’ from Il Barbiere di Sivilgia and ‘O mio babbino caro’ from Gianni Schicchi – are her best (and two of my favourites), with the soprano showcasing a depth to her voice and control over the nuances of phrasing and articulation.

If the solo performances are mostly very good, then it is the ensemble singing that is the highlight of Opera at Twilight, with the various combinations of voices melding beautifully. ‘Dome epais le jasmin’ from Delibes’ Lakme may be well-known to the point of cliché (thanks, British Airways), but it sounds fresh and captivating tonight: Wallace’s counter-melody is delicately understated, providing room for Wogan to soar in her upper register. When the pair leaves the stage through a concrete corridor, we hear the remnants of two angelic lines weaving a single musical path. In this outdoor setting, it really is quite spectacular.

Wallace and Fung’s duet ‘Pa…Pa…Pa…’ from The Magic Flute is, by contrast, lively, crisp, and highly entertaining, and the trio’s ‘Soave sia il vento’, which concludes Act I, is simply exquisite.

This makes it all the more disappointing that the final excerpt of the evening is Strauss’ ‘Im Feurstrom der Reben’ from Die Fledermaus. Certainly, the chorus works well as a celebratory conclusion, and no one begrudges the cast a glass of champagne as a ‘prop’, but the predominantly unison lines feel a bit unambitious, especially in light of what we’ve just heard.

It is to fair to say, however, that by this point in the evening, Opera Brava has delighted the full audience, and as I eavesdrop on the other concertgoers’ conversations while walking back to the car, it is clear that nobody is leaving unhappy. 


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