Young singers on blaz­ing good form

The Mercury - - GOOD LIFE - Wil­liam Charl­tonPerkins

Above: Is­raeli pi­anist Ishay Shaer per­forms for Dur­ban’s Friends of Mu­sic on June 2. Right and far right: So­prano Joyce El-Khoury and tenor Michael Spyres, who star in Opera Rara’s newly re­leased record­ing of Donizetti’s Mar­tyrs.

AS OPERA pro­duc­tions re­main con­sis­tently ab­sent from Dur­ban’s main­stage arena, Opera Rara’s lat­est re­lease, a mag­nif­i­cent record­ing of Donizetti’s 1840 four-act grand opera, Les Mar­tyrs, will be greeted with open arms by lo­cal en­thu­si­asts who have to rely on experiencing this great art form at a re­move.

Con­ducted with white-hot pas­sion by Sir Mark El­der, at the helm of the su­perbly com­mit­ted Orches­tra of the Age of En­light­en­ment, this three-CD set has just been re­leased.

It fol­lows a new crit­i­cal edi­tion of Donizetti’s score, which is set to a li­bretto set against the back­drop of early Chris­tian mar­tyrs who were per­se­cuted un­der im­pe­rial Ro­man rule in third-cen­tury Ar­me­nia.

Head­ing the cast as the heroic Ro­man-war­rior-turnedChris­tian-con­vert, Polyeucte, and his wife and even­tual fel­low con­vert, Pauline, are Amer­i­can tenor Michael Spyres and sil­ver-voiced Canadian-Le­banese so­prano Joyce El-Khoury.

Th­ese young singers are on blaz­ing form in this stu­dio record­ing, which pre­ceded a widely ac­claimed con­cert per­for­mance in Lon­don’s Royal Fes­ti­val Hall last Novem­ber.

Both so­prano and tenor com­fort­ably in­habit their vir­tu­oso roles. El-Khoury’s for­mi­da­ble ar­se­nal of ac­com­plish­ments, blaz­ing top Cs, ef­fort­lessly despatched col­oratura and gos­samer-fine pi­anis­si­mos, in­form the singer’s com­pelling dra­matic por­trayal.

Spyres’s per­for­mance, like­wise, is beau­ti­fully ob­served, lovely head tones al­ter­nat­ing with clar­ion-toned cli­maxes. Not the least of th­ese is an as­ton­ish­ing high E nat­u­ral, pitched dead-cen­tre in full voice (gasps of amaze­ment all round).

Basses Brind­ley Sherratt and Clive Bay­ley, and bari­tone David Kemp­ster, each hold their own in the cast­ing stakes, and the Opera Rara Cho­rus seize their sev­eral mo­ments to shine in Donizetti’s grandiose score, cre­ated to ap­pease the spec­ta­cle-hun­gry Paris Opéra au­di­ence of the day.

As ever, this new re­lease is backed by Opera Rara’s trade­mark high pro­duc­tion val­ues, which in­clude com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramme notes and an English trans­la­tion of the French li­bretto.

Les Mar­tyrs is avail­able di­rectly from Opera Rara at http://www.opera-rara.com.

Also of note for lo­cal lovers of opera is the fi­nal HD trans­mis­sion from the 2014/2015 New York Metropoli­tan Opera sea­son.

Set for a short run at Umh­langa’s Cinema Nou­veau from Satur­day, this film fea­tures the tra­di­tional cou­pling of the world’s best­known one-act melo­dra­mas: Mascagni’s Caval­le­ria rus­ti­cana, and its fre­quent bed-fel­low, Leon­cav­allo’s I Pagli­acci.

Con­ducted by Fabio Luisi and di­rected by Sir David McVicar, this “Cav and Pag” dou­ble bill marks its first new Met pro­duc­tion in 45 years.

On our live mu­sic front, the KZN Phil­har­monic Orches­tra launches its win­ter sea­son of con­certs this evening in the Dur­ban City Hall with an eclec­tic mix of works pre­sented un­der the slightly mis­lead­ing soubri­quet, Cel­e­brate Africa!.

While the in­clu­sion of two hy­brid con­cert rar­i­ties from Ghana – each promis­ing fas­ci­nat­ing lis­ten­ing for sea­soned con­cert-go­ers – par­tially jus­ti­fies the over­all ti­tle of the evening’s fare, the choice of mu­sic by An­tonin Dvorák as its cur­tain-raiser and Leonard Bern­stein to close hardly re­in­forces the cho­sen theme of the evening’s pro­gram­ming.

Be that as it may, in the light of the re­cent out­break of xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence in our city, the diplo­matic ges­ture, broadly cel­e­brat­ing mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, is timeous. It comes in the wake of the re­cent na­tional tour by the Alma Cham­ber Orches­tra in sup­port of peace and unity.

With Ger­man mae­stro Ber­hard Gueller on the podium, this evening’s pro­gramme opens with Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances (Num­bers 1 – 4 Opus 46).

The spot­light then falls on the renowned Ghana­ian com­poser Bernard Woma, who in­tro­duces to lo­cals the dis­tinc­tive sounds of a tra­di­tional Ghana­ian xy­lo­phone, known as the gyil.

The dis­tinc­tive sounds of this in­stru­ment can be heard in per­for­mances of Woma’s Gyil Jumbie Con­certo and Gyil Yeru Con­certo.

Th­ese two short pieces, ex­panded for per­for­mances with sym­phony orches­tras in the US and else­where, will be per­formed by the three-man Bernard Woma En­sem­ble.

This com­prises the com­poser him­self, Mark Stone and Ed­ward Kwesi Adu Ampim Greene, the lat­ter re­plac­ing the pre­vi­ously an­nounced, but in­dis­posed, Kofi Ameyaw.

Bern­stein’s West Side Story Sym­phonic Dances brings the evening to a close.

Next Thurs­day’s pro­gramme, con­ducted by Lykele Tem­mingh, sees mem­bers of the Bocha­bella Strings from Bloem­fontein join­ing forces with the KZNPO.

The evening opens with the bril­liant Queen Mab Scherzo from Ber­lioz’s dra­matic sym­phony, Romeo et Juliet, and concludes with ex­tracts from Prokofi­eff ’s ballet of the same ti­tle.

Its cen­tre­piece is a per­for­mance by the Amer­i­can pi­anist, Awada­gin Pratt, of Mozart’s Pi­ano Con­certo No 23 in A Ma­jor K488.

To sub­scribe to the KZNPO’s win­ter sea­son con­certs, which start at 7.30pm and run each Thurs­day un­til June 25, phone Com­puticket at 0861 915 8000 or log on to www.com­puticket.com.

Fi­nally, for cham­ber mu­sic lovers, two events are in the off­ing, each start­ing at 7.30pm.

The first of th­ese is a duo per­for­mance of light clas­si­cal favourites and cross-over items by pi­anist Christo­pher Duigan and gui­tarist James Grace next Tues­day at L’Apertivo Venue 9, Aurora Drive (be­hind Royal Palm Ho­tel), at Gate­way in Umh­langa. To book call 072 947 3804 or email info@lapertivov­enue.co.za.

The sec­ond recital com­ing up, to be pre­sented by Friends of Mu­sic, is at the Jewish Cen­tre in K E Masinga Road on Tues­day, June 2. It will fea­ture Is­raeli pi­anist Ishay Shaer per­form­ing mu­sic by De­bussy, Beethoven and Chopin. Book at Com­puticket.

Les

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