Review: Sol3 Mio at CBS Canterbury Arena
If anyone can take opera to the masses it's Sol3 Mio.
I don't want anybody's mother to give me the jandal but opera, Celine Dion and songs from the Sound of Music is normally a combination to send me running. However Sol3 Mio's natural humour and tremendous vocal abilities quickly won me over last night.
Pronounced ''sole mio'', with sole Samoan slang for ''brothers'', the trio comprising Samoan-Kiwi tenor brothers Pene and Amitai Pati and their baritone cousin Moses Mackay are hoping to break down the perception that opera is ''snobby''.
Despite their impeccable opera credentials, it quickly became apparent last night that this was no ordinary operatic performance.
When a couple of late arrivals tried to sneak into the front seats, Pene Pati wagged his finger and said: ''It started at eight o'clock aunty."
Their show proved a spectacular hit with the packed audience, including many members of the Crusaders, at CBS Canterbury Arena last night.
The Auckland-based trio take opera, with its ludicrous plots in beautiful foreign languages, and make it accessible through the use of story-telling in everyday language. Their voices soar individually and stun collectively.
In just over 18 months, Sol3 Mio have humbly become one of the biggest acts in the country.
With Lexus awards and masters with distinction from the prestigious Wales International Academy of Voice to their names, their self-titled debut album was released last November, topped the charts at Christmas and went five-times platinum.
It was the best-selling New Zealand album last year - yes, higher than Lorde.
It is still sitting in the No. 1 slot on the album charts this week.
Stopping off in Christchurch as part of a sold-out tour, which saw them perform their 17th show in 23 days, fans were treated to a number of exquisite arias and traditional songs.
The first half of the night showcased the trio's classical range masterfully, bar interference, rather humorously, from an audience member's hearing aid.
Although the core opera audience was well represented, many younger newcomers had turned out to experience Sol3 Mio.
In the intermission I talked to a 24-year-old plasterer who confessed to being an opera virgin.
''These fellas are good eh,'' was his verdict.
The second half of the show featured more populist, nostalgic material and was, as promised, more relaxing, with witty introductions to the songs adding context to the material.
Last night the trio traversed a vast range of material including Maria (and occasionally Margaret) from West Side Story, three arias from La Traviata, American folk song Shenandoah, Yellow Bird, moving numbers Tell My Father and The Rose, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah - which included a reference to Shrek - and exquisite Au fond du temple saint (The Pearl Fishers' Duet), which saw Amitai Pati do the walk of shame down the Star Trek stairs.
Sol3 Mio weren't afraid to sing happy birthday to audience members, an ''extra sexy'' version of Blue Bayou and used shameless self-promotion to flog their programmes and tour merchandise.
And the Crusaders members in the crowd surely helped Christchurch take the tour cup from Invercargill for the audience singalong to The Sound of Music's Edelweiss.
After proving that ''size doesn't matter'', the evening's entertainment concluded with Nessun Dorma and an emotional We Are Samoa, before an encore or ''uncle uncle, gimme Samoa'' of Ten Guitars in faux Italian, My Way with a Spanish twist and O Sole Mio, during which the tenor brothers high-fived each other before linking arms to bow for a standing ovation.
Following this tour, Pene ''the tenor always gets the girl'' Pati returns to work with the San Francisco Opera, while his brother Amitai and cousin Mackay return to Europe later this year.
Successfully taking opera to a new generation, the trio performed songs requested via Facebook and, after ''Mr Sparkles'' put the lights on, the trio took a selfie video with the crowd.
The tenor brothers spent much of their childhood, from the age of seven to 19, performing in a rest home every Friday night and last night appeared sincerely grateful to now be singing in a vast arena.
To this modern day Von Trapp family I say ''che bello!''
Sol3 Mio at CBS Canterbury Arena, Wednesday, March 26.