REVIEW: Concert thrills the audience right to the encore

“Opera with a dash of Christmas in Canberra”, All Saints Church, December 8

ITALIAN pianist, director and composer Alessio Nelli joined soprano Susannah Lawergren and mezzo-soprano Hannah Fraser in an intimate recital of operatic favourites and more at All Saints Church in Ainslie yesterday (December 8).

Beginning with the song “In the bleak midwinter” by Gustave Holtz, Hannah Fraser walked down the aisle singing as she approached Nelli on piano. She was soon joined in the same way by Lawergren. They combined to open the concert in a dramatic yet sensitive manner.

After a short Offenbach work, the highly sensual “Lámour est un oiseau rebelle” by Bizet from “Carmen” was sung and acted out most sensually by Fraser. She seductively leaned into Nelli as she sang; it was a powerhouse performance.

“Casta Diva” from “Norma” by Bellini followed. Lawergren sang this hymn-like tune with beautiful control. Her power in the high fortissimo parts was extraordinary; she cut through everything.

Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” is a fun opera. “Prenderò quel brunettino” is perhaps the most amusing duet in the whole opera. This was a play within a play and the combining of the two singers voices worked on every level.

Meyerbeer and Monteverdi wound up the first part. “Pur ti miro” from Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea”, which is in the final scene of the opera was a culmination of the two singers showing that they are as subtle as they are strong. The profound beauty in this piece was expressed sublimely.

After the interval, it was a mixed selection of styles and themes ranging from the early baroque to the very recent. Songs from Praetorius to Jerry Bock from “Fidler on the Roof” fame, to English and Scottish traditional folk songs to Massenet, for solo piano, to Gershwin, “Summertime” of course, to a French love song by Charles Aznavour and “O Holy Night” by Adolf Ryan.

Nelli on piano accompanied perfectly all through. He maintained a subtle style. His dynamic sitting just under the volume of the singers. He brought out the best in these two exceptional voices.

This selection of songs showed the versatility of the singers. While Lawergren is a soprano and Fraser a mezzo-soprano, it was remarkable how similar the tone and intonation of their voices are.

The music lovers, who did not turn up to this concert of exceptional singing and playing, missed out on something special. The small audience in attendance were all captured and thrilled by the talents of these three performers; there was even an encore.

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