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Friday, October 16, 2009


(Pic by Catherine Ashmore: Renèe Fleming as Violetta)

Royal Opera’s celebrated production is currently on Nu Metro’s roster. (Classical Notes by William Charlton-Perkins)

The Royal Opera’s celebrated La Traviata, directed by Sir Richard Eyre, is currently on Nu Metro’s roster at The Pavilion in Westville and other cinemas nationally. Filmed for broadcast during the production’s revival in June this year, it stars Renèe Fleming at the height of her powers, singing and acting to standing ovations. No wonder she had hard-to-please London critics groping for superlatives.

The soprano brings a life-time’s experience to her portrayal of Violetta Valery, the doomed courtesan who selflessly sacrifices the great love of her life to spare her lover’s bourgeois family from the disgrace of association with ‘a fallen woman’ (mid 19th century morality was in full sway when Verdi made waves with this one). The American soprano commands the full measure of this demanding role. Her portrayal exudes all the brittle glamour and dazzling bravura called for in the opening act, as well as the searing pain and growing sense of heart-ache imbedded the drama of Act 2. Her final outburst of elation at the close of Act 3, so cruelly dashed as death overtakes her, is numbing.

The singer’s phenomenal focus is underpinned by Antonio Pappano’s surefire command of Verdi’s great score. There is strong support, too, from Maltese tenor, Joseph Calleja as a passionate Alfredo, marginally less so from baritone Thomas Hampson, whose lyric instrument is a bit short of vocal heft for Verdi’s priggish father figure, Giorgio Germont. Given the Royal Opera’s handsome staging, including exceptionally strong ensemble singing and a witty account of the ‘Spanish’ ballet scene, this is greatly rewarding theatre, caught with the considerable benefits of close-ups. Catch it while you can.

It was good to see a larger turn-out in the Durban City Hall last Thursday than has been the case at most of this season’s KZNPO concerts. Jonathan Oshry’s virtuosic rendering of Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 1 was justly rewarded by his clamorous audience. More crowd-pleasing fare is in the offing this evening, with Naum Rousine on the podium for Enescu’s Rumanian Rhapsody No 1, Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony and Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto. The latter features the prize-winning young Serbian violinist, Stanko Madic making his KZNPO debut.

Next Thursday’s concert (October 22) sees the return of the popular Japanese maestro Yasuo Shinozaki with an interesting break from standard repertoire, Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and John Williams’ evocative Harp Concerto Willows and Birches with American harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, another debut appearance.

Meanwhile, note that UKZN Music School has a full programme of events lined-up at Howard College Theatre for its annual Music Festival Week. First up is a mixed piano recital entitled Piano Passion 3 on October 20 at 17h30, featuring students as well as faculty staff members Liezl-Maret Jacobs, Andrew Warburton, Jacques Heyns and Christopher Cockburn. Entrance is free.

The first round of the annual Classical Performers’ Competition follows on October 22 at 10h00, with two categories, one open to UKZN Music students, another open to scholars between the ages of 10 and 18. Entrance is free.

The gala evening of the Festival of Music Week is on October 24 at 19h30, featuring the finalists of the Classical Performers’ Competition as well as winners of the opera festival. Entrance is R50/R20.

For more information about these and other programmes taking place during the week, contact Mandy Wilken on 031 260 3353 or – William Charlton-Perkins