The National Opera gala will raise the roof to music
The National Opera’s gala concert later this month will raise the roof with an incredibly thrilling sing of glorious music, proclaims the company’s artistic director and producer, baritone Peter Coleman-Wright. There will be three Canberra Divas; the lush, dramatic music of Verdi, Wagner and Richard Strauss; and some of the grandest and most driving choruses in opera.
Opening the evening is soprano Eleanor Greenwood, who performed the role of Annio in the National Opera’s acclaimed first production, Mozart’s Tito’s Clemency (1791), last year.
Greenwood will sing “Dich, teure Halle”, Elisabeth’s greeting to the hall, by Wagner Tannhauser (1845), a grand opera on courtly and profane love in medieval Germany, and perhaps his most melodious work (less an “endless melody” than an unstoppable suite of melodies); the Easter hymn and the refrain of Cavalleria rusticana (1890), Mascagni’s veristic thriller about adultery and revenge in Sicily; and “Pace, pace, mio Dio” by Leonora, after Verdi The Forza of Destiny (1862), a sprawling, kaleidoscopic opera of ideas – primarily the role chance (or fate) plays in our lives – teeming with soldiers, monks and camp followers.
An artist with Opera Queensland and Melbourne Opera, Greenwood recently appeared in Wagner’s Walkure (1870) – singing the incestuous heroine Sieglinde – and that of Verdi macbeth (1847).
“It’s time for Canberra to hear their development,” Coleman-Wright said. “It will be a wonderful opportunity for people to hear it again.”
Greenwood will be joined by Canberran sopranos Hannah Carter and Emma Mauch in Strauss’ sublime trio-finale Rosenkavalier (1911), a silver magic piece in which the middle-aged Marshal bids farewell to her much younger lover Octavian.
Carter and Mauch, music graduates, work as speech therapists and midwives respectively, but Carter will move to the UK later this year to pursue her singing dreams.
They will sing a duet from another work by Strauss, Arabelle (1933), a lighter work of bullets, keys, transvestites, Croatian fellows and glasses of water.
Coleman-Wright compares singers’ voices to wine: Greenwood, a spinto soprano (a heavy, rich voice), is a shiraz; Mauch, lyric soprano, is a Cabernet Sauvignon; and Carter, a light operatic soprano, is a Merlot.
To accompany the wines, a choir of 50 local singers – “the people who love to sing in Canberra” – will perform some favorite choirs: Verdi’s Hebrew (Nabuco1842) and Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore1853), Wagner’s Wedding Chorus Lohengrin (1850), Puccini’s Humming Chorus Lady Butterfly (1904), the bell choir of Leoncavallo Pagliacci (1892), and Johann (unrelated) Strauss’ Champagne Chorus Fledermaus (1874).
National Opera’s plans for this year have suffered from the coronavirus – Puccini’s Rondine (1917) has been shelved – but the company will return later this year with a fully staged performance of Handel’s opera seria, Alcine (1735).
Both performances will be dedicated to the legendary Australian Joan Sutherland, “La Stupenda”, who made her debut at La Fenice in the role, and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge, patron of the National Opera.
Coleman-Wright has assembled one of the best casts available in Australia today, led by brilliant Handelian expert Graham Abbott.
“All the pieces are in place for something very special,” Coleman-Wright said.
In fact, he thinks the National Opera could be something very special for Canberra, and even for Australia.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Canberra becoming Australia’s cultural capital – and you can’t really have a cultural city without a great opera company.”
Gala de l’Opéra, Saturday August 27, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $120 (reserve A), $95 (reserve B); concession: $95 (reserve A), $80 (reserve B); accessible seats: $80; students: $45. Tickets are on sale on the National Opera website.