Review by Judith Caldwell
The Bach Elgar Choir presented an afternoon of Popular Opera Choruses at the Royal Botanical Gardens on Sunday. It was a suitably joyful and hopeful program for the first day which finally felt like the end of winter. The first half began with the haunting Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco, a well-known and loved piece ideally suited to this choir. It was very interesting to hear this familiar ‘large’ music in such a small and intimate setting.
The Choir has some very fine singers who are superbly trained to blend and not overshadow each other and they did justice to Verdi’s work.
We then heard operatic works from Puccini, Bizet, Mozart, Mascagni and even a much earlier work by Henry Purcell. These were presented as soli, duets and choral works and ranged from the sweet and light Si mi chiamano from La Boheme sung by soloist Charlene Santoni; to the lusty temptress Carmen with Erica Iris singing the Habenera; the wonderful tenor/baritone duet from the Pearl Fishers sung by Keith Klassen and Alexander Dobson; and even the slightly silly Papageno/Papagena duet from the Magic Flute. The soloists all had lovely voices and at least two clearly enjoyed being hams which added to the fun.
It was interesting to hear Purcell sung by such a large choir, I had previously only heard early music sung by very small 16-20 voice choirs and I must admit in this case I missed the clarity found in the smaller choirs.The first half wrapped up with the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni which the conductor, Alexander Cann, called an undisciplined and bewildering number of parts which actually add up to a glorious whole. He was right, it was glorious.
The second half of the program had some lighter offerings from Franz Lehar, Arthur Sullivan and Victor Herbert as well as Bizet, Verdi and Rossini. There were some nostalgic choices like ‘You Are My Hearts Delight’ from the Land of Smiles sung beautifully by Klassen, and Vilja from the Merry Widow featuring Santoni, and some just plain fun ones like Brindisi from La Traviata, and ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General’ by Sullivan which was hammed up shamelessly by Dobson. We heard some rousing choruses too from the Gondoliers, Naughty Marietta and Carmen. This was a well-planned, well executed and thoroughly entertaining concert. The choir was in good voice, the soloists had lovely voices and engaging, fun personalities and the music was well chosen. For information on future events see http://www.bachelgar.com.