Popera plus; Opera Hamilton’s annual event Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

reviewer_DannyThis writer isn’t sure what the designation ‘plus’ refers to in the programme’s title; but methinks it may be recognition for the orchestral interludes that are the agenda’s intrinsic offerings. During last evening’s performance at Theatre Aquarius, some of those musical interpretations were as professional as the arias that highlighted the vocal selections. The Opera Hamilton Orchestral interpretation of the Die Fledermaus overture was as faultless a reading as I’ve heard, with dramatically arranged pauses that emphasized the composer’s mood and intent.

The four soloists displayed diverse presentational styles as well as stance and interpretation. This dissimilarity added so much to the enjoyment of hearing arias in a concert format, that the absence of costumes and settings was hardly noticeable.

Tenor Bruce Sledge’s powerhouse rendition of ‘Parmi veder’ from Rigoletto set the bar at its apogee. In fairness, this Verdi opera is one of my personal favorites and thus came with subliminal imagery of the Act II situation wherein Mantua expresses his desolation. Sledge gave his libertine character an almost endearing humanity. “O mio babbino caro” is one of those operatic works that are so exquisitely composed as to be an auditory treat even without plot or circumstance knowledge. Soprano Mireille Asselin has a demure-ish deportment and manner that assuredly made her interpretation about as far removed from the Presley ‘Oh my Papa’ as any work with the same entreaty! Her voice has the texture of honey across her full vocal range.

There is a moment in Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ where Enrico learns about his sister’s infidelity. Like today’s infamous Shafia family homicides, – killing for honour becomes an alternative. Baritone Philip Addis gave his ‘Cruda, funesta smania’ such vehemence as to be a potential bit of evidence for the Kingston court! Addis utilizes posture, facial expression & hand movements to enhance his obvious vocal competence. This was a very touching delivery. A rather unusual musical coupling…male arias interpreted by a mezzo. Norine Burgess presented two arias, one fun philosophy that Prince Orlofsky has in ‘Fledermaus’; the other- a paean to lost love that Orpheus sings about his Euridice; she aced both! Her duet with Asselin from Offenbach’s ‘Tales of Hoffman’ has this scribe semi-quietly contributing ♫Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour, etc. –ing! Burgess is another of those divas who cannot help but bring a personal identification with her character that adds dimension to her vocal renderings, and manifests itself in authenticating her roles.

There were two highlight moments, Sledge’s ‘Futiva Lagrima’ with its dramatic finale sung a cappella, and concertmaster Lance Elbeck’s touching violin solo transcription of Massenet’s “Meditation”. The ‘Au fond’ duet from the Pearl Fishers had Sledge & Addis confirm their male bonding; and again as co-consolers mourning Mimi in “La Boheme”.

Oleskevich,Elbeck,Addis,Burgess,Sledge,Asselin & Speers

The outstanding choral supplement was bestowed by a blending of the Opera Hamilton Chorus and the Bach Elgar Choir. Their cohesion and vocal expertise made a remarkable contribution to a superb evening. Both conductors, David Speers and Peter Oleskevich alternated on the podium, with the latter even granting permission for the audience to participate in the ‘Va pensiero’ from Nabucco. For the 2013 Popera, this paper plans to include the lyrics in our ‘Upcoming Events’ announcement so that we can vocalize as well as hum! Comments, dangaisinOAR@gmail.com

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