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Saturday, September 12, 2009


(Pic: Evgenia Grekova)

Audience rewarded with a most enjoyable concert. (Review by Michael Green)

The fine Russian soprano Evgenia Grekova showed her versatility when she sang operatic arias with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall two days after providing a very different kind of music, lieder, the art song, for the Friends of Music.

She confirmed the qualities displayed earlier --- a full, rich voice and an accomplished technique – and this time she turned her talents to Mozart, Bellini, Verdi and Offenbach. Her voice is refreshingly free of the vibrato that mars so much opera singing, and she executed difficult leaps and trills with skill and aplomb.

The programme was mainly familiar music but it included some items that were a little off the beaten track such as a big aria from Bellini’s I Puritani, The Puritans, and the only non-operatic song, Joseph Canteloube’s enchanting Bailero from his Songs of the Auvergne. I Puritani, incidentally, has an unusual setting, the English Civil War of the seventeenth century. And Vincenzo Bellini was yet another composer to die young, in his case at the age of 34, in 1835.

The KZNPO was conducted, for the first time I think, by a young American, Kamal Khan, who was born in Washington and has an imposing record as a freelance opera conductor in many parts of the world. He is now head of the opera school at the University of Cape Town. Kamal Khan has an incisive, energetic, conducting style and he seems to be the kind of warm, friendly personality who can engage well with instrumentalists and singers (he is apparently a good pianist and is also a vocal coach). Under his baton the KZNPO played overtures by Mozart, Bellini and Verdi in a well-varied programme.

It is a pity that the audience was sparse. Perhaps Durban’s lovers of song had exhausted their efforts and their pockets on the recent RenĂ©e Fleming concert.

Those who attended were rewarded with a most enjoyable concert, and they were highly appreciative of the singing of Evegnia Grekova who is (we were told by the orchestra’s chief executive, Bongani Tembe) six months pregnant. She has a tranquil and composed demeanour. Surrounded by all that music it should turn out to be a happy baby. - Michael Green