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Sunday, August 23, 2009


The concert of the decade draws near! (Report by William Charlton-Perkins)

The classical music highlight of the decade is almost upon us. Opera superstar Renée Fleming’s long-awaited South African tour kicks off on August 27, in the Durban City Hall. The KZNPO management has announced its programme to be performed with its celebrated guest star during her tour. The generous choice of musical items reflects the soprano’s wide repertoire, while offering broad appeal for South African music-lovers. Rossini’s sparkling Il Barbiere di Siviglia Overture will be the evening’s curtain-raiser. Ms Fleming will then open with three contrasting Handel arias: the serenely reflective Dank sei dir, Herr; the beautiful love song, Ritorna, o caro e dolce mio Tesoro from Rodelinda; and the light-hearted virtuoso aria, Endless pleasure, endless love from Semele.

A selection of Verdi operatic favourites will follow. This will include the stirring chorus, Gerusalem! Gerusalem! from I Lombardi (to be performed by the combined Durban Symphonic Choir and African Chorus), and the rousing La Forza del Destino Overture, followed by Desdemona’s haunting Ave Maria from Otello, and the coloratura Bolero, Merce, dilette amiche from I Vespri Siciliani.

Bizet’s colourfully exotic Carmen Suite No 1 opens the second half of the evening’s programme. This will be followed by two famous soprano arias from French romantic operas, Massenet’s Cléopâtre and Gounod’s Faust, and the wildly spectacular Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila. Puccini, one of opera’s all-time favourite composers, rounds off the formal sector of the evening, with performances of the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut, and two soprano show-stoppers, O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicci, and the equally celebrated Vissi d’arte from Tosca. It is safe to predict the programme will also offer the thrill of a number of charismatic encores.

Renée Fleming’s concert in Durban City Hall will be followed by concerts the State Theatre in Pretoria on August 29 and in the Cape Town City Hall on September 1. Both the Pretoria and Cape Town concerts are sold-out. The Durban concert is heavily booked, but a few tickets are still available at Computicket on 083 915 8000.

So now’s your last chance to secure seats to hear one of the great voices of our age right here in our midst. The tour will also feature the American born conductor William Eddins, principal conductor of the Edminton Symphony Orchestra in Canada, formerly resident conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim.