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Thursday, June 16, 2011


(Bronwen Forbay)

Successful recital brings a large audience to a pitch of enthusiasm. (Review by Michael Green)

Bronwen Forbay, who was born and grew up in Durban, has long been a favourite with audiences here, and deservedly so. She is a versatile soprano of very high quality, and she is a remarkably gracious and engaging personality.

She is returning to the United States, where she now lives with her husband, after a spell in Durban, and this recital for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre was billed as her “farewell Durban concert”. This is a bit extreme. She is still very young. Maybe like Dame Nellie Melba nearly a century ago she will have farewell recitals extending over many years. She will surely be back in Durban before long.

Ah well, that’s showbiz. What is unarguable is that this recital was a great success, bringing a large audience to a pitch of enthusiasm. Accompanied by the accomplished Christopher Duigan, who also gave two piano solos, Bronwen presented a programme ranging from Mozart to 20th century Afrikaans songs. She has developed into a mature and confident artist, and this was clear from her first item, the well-known Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. She is in demand as an opera singer and she has all the requirements: a powerful yet sweet voice, accurate intonation at all levels, a strong sense of theatre, and a physical appearance that is a constant delight to the eye. All these attributes were displayed here and in the other operatic arias on her programme, by Mozart, Puccini, Lehar and Verdi.

There were some unfamiliar items – a lovely song by Liszt and four Afrikaans songs by John K. Pescod and S. le Roux Marais ---and Christopher Duigan contributed two Liszt piano works, the well-known Liebestraume No. 3 and the virtuoso Reminiscences of Lucia di Lammermoor. He was a skilful and sympathetic accompanist throughout the concert.

In such a parade of excellence it is perhaps unwise to single out high points, but my favourites of the evening were Poulenc’s Les chemins de l’amour (Paths of love), a smoky, sentimental, sardonic and beautiful French song, and Marais’s Kom dans Klaradyn, a lilting little waltz, both exquisitely performed.

In response to a standing ovation at the end, Bronwen offered the audience a choice of encores (she has enviable communication skills). On a show of hands the request was for a song from the younger Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, duly sung with great verve.

The Prelude Performers of the evening, were ten acappella unaccompanied singers from Northlands Girls’ High School. Trained by Jenny Bonsignore, they showed talent and discipline in giving lively performances of Somewhere over the Rainbow and a medley of light songs. - Michael Green

Friends of Music is funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.