Don Fatale - Dyslexic Nail Ripper

Saturday, December 25, 2004


News of Renata Tebaldi's death came rather late to me. Made me take out La Forza Destino from Naples. The La Vergine degli Angeli was just sublime....One of the ultimate examples of pure aesthetic beauty. Just posting this to remind myself to purchase her La Gioconda recording as soon as possible.

The High E!!!

I have to say, re-listening to Sondra Radvanovksy's high E in the Bolero ( did not recreate the thrill I experienced when listening to the live broadcast of I Vespri. One of those moments forever etched in my memory.....
The prison aria was not as impressive I thought. I am not a fan of her timbre. The most impressive moments from her in the broadcast came from her ability to spontaneously thrill - the high E in the Bolero and her large gushes of sound in the ensembles. Otherwise I found the rest of her singing rather ordinary.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Manon at the Victorian Arts Centre Wednesday 8 Dec 2004

I must say I was pleasantly surprised and hugely grateful for this production of Opera Australia's Manon with a full cast of principles fully capable of singing every note their roles entailed after having experienced an Il Trovatore with the ghastly mezzo Yang Jie as Azucena who shouldn't have been allowed to sing anything heavier than Gilbert and Sullivan, a thoroughly disgusting Tosca with a largely inaudible Fujiko Hirai (or whatever her name is) who when audible was off-key, and a lacklustre Norma with Elizabeth Connell and her very uncomfortable sounding first act aria and cabaletta. Manon on Wednesday night therefore reaffirmed my affection for live opera that had started to wane after the aforementioned performances, at which point I was seriously contemplating staying home and listening to recordings.
And Manon is one of those operas that have been served well and rather illustrously on recordings. There is of course the canonical recording with Victoria De Los Angeles in the title role, as well as other recordings with distinctive and notable singers like Beverly Sills and Illeana Contrubas. Superstars of today have also left behind documents of their assumptions of Manon: Angela Gheorghiu stars on the new, glamourous EMI set while Renee Fleming and her gowns feature on the newly released DVD of a performance from Paris.
Such a wealth of diverse singers to choose an interpretation of Manon from made me think twice about purchasing a ticket to what is hardly one of my favourite operas with an unknown singer who seems to specialize in soubrette parts in the title role. Amelia Farrugia, fortunately immediately impressed in her first aria with a glamorous, silvery tone with an effortless ease of projection - a slender steam of sound that constantly flowed seamlessly in all registers rather reminiscent of Hei-Kyung Hong. Forte high notes are not her biggest strength however and one might have wished for a more expansive lower register in her big recitative preceeding her farewell to her dining table. Nonetheless she impressed with professional stage presence - excellent posture and good graceful movements - and a first class instrument. She also gamely -albeit not always sounding comfortable - attempted all the high note options in the gambling scene, adventurously capping the scene with a high forte over the chorus.
Julian Gavin was a little less impressive as Des Grieux with a thick, rather blowsy instrument sounding like he would be more comfortable with Puccini's Des Grieux rather than Massenet's. His is a rather large voice however and in his Saint-Suplice aria he let rip some huge phrases that brought the well known - yet rarely encountered - thrills that a large voiced singer can give in a live concert hall.
Emanuel Plasson conducted well with a light, brisk tempo and always keeping the orchestra transparent for his singers. The winds section was in fine form, producing some gorgeous floating phrases.
I found the production rather ordinary in contrast to the reviewer at The Age who basically devoted 80% of his review to it. It was pleasant to look at but I was hoping for more contrast between the public and private scenes and I found the Gambling scene rather small scaled.
I don't speak French but according to Lancelot the French was overall rather "strange". In all, still a great evening at the opera! I hope to see more of Ms Farrugia. Maybe as Zerlina, Pamina or better still, Adina or Norina. A pity I will miss A Merry Widow. I hope to catch the divine Ms Kelly in La Voix Humane next year.