Revelatory feast of opera
A Night of Opera, Nelson Symphony Orchestra with Avid Opera, conductor Nigel Weeks, Old St John's, Saturday night.
Reviewed by Judith Paviell
This sumptuous feast of a performance was a revelation – its audience the most involved and animated I've encountered at a Nelson concert.
All the ingredients were there: four singers and an orchestra of outstanding calibre, a full house and varied programme studded with opera favourites, plus great rapport fuelled by the skill, warmth and bonhomie of conductor Nigel Weeks.
The orchestra set the scene from the start, injecting verve and fanfare into Mozart's Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. Later, amid shimmering strings, they rendered Verdi's Prelude to Act 1 from La Traviata with delicate beauty, then a magnificent, rich version of Rossini's Barber of Seville Overture that drew more thunderous applause.
The musicians accompanied the singers with great sensitivity and style. They seemed to bounce off each other in a polished, seamless collaboration.
Von Weber's reflective Und ob die Wolke proved a perfect vehicle for spinto soprano Alison Cormack's vocal range. Equally at home with the dramatic Wagner, Cormack then made Puccini's passionate Vissi d'arte, from Tosca, her own.
Soprano Barbara Grant's softer, refined voice showed its hidden steel in a lovely rendition of the Aria from Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, while she and Cormack had fun in Mozart's Via, restiservita (The Marriage of Figaro).
Graham O'Brien's fine bass baritone and tenor Ewen Griffiths teamed up in a breath-taking performance of Bizet's Duet from The Pearl Fishers, marvellously backed by the orchestra, trumpets proclaiming in a splendid crescendo. Bliss.
The seasoned rafters of Old St John's probably still tremble with the noisy response from patrons, culminating in a standing ovation after an encore of the drinking song, Brindisi, from Verdi's La Traviata, featuring all four singers.
A night to remember – and repeat, please!