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Sunday, March 21, 2021


(Right: Soprano Kimmy Skota)

Each of Skota’s phrases was a perfectly sculpted entity, traversing a multitude of nuances of meaning, colour and articulatory effects. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The third concert of the KZNPO Virtual Summer Season 2021, which took place on March 18, 2021, gave even further depth to an already rich and diverse season of music. While there was an emphasis on the Romantic genre, the placement of two movements from Così fan tutte at the beginning of the programme imbued the concert with added sophistication and prevented it from lapsing into an evening of Romantic sentimentality. The orchestra performed Così fan tutte, K. 588: Overture and “Una donna a quindici anni” (1790) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); La Traviata: Prelude to Act 1 and “È strano...Follie! follie...Sempre libera” (1853) by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Symphony No. 1, Op. 68 in C minor (1876) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). 

Of all Mozart’s mature operas, the question of Così fan tutte’s compositional genesis is the most difficult to answer. For the other operas of his Vienna years, such as Le nozze di Figaro (1785-86), Don Giovanni (1787) and Die Zauberflöte (1791), there is some anecdotal evidence.

What does seem clear is why this work was selected for this season’s programme. In 2020, the Finnish National Opera produced a satirical take on the work entitled Covid fan tutte, which is a comic opera depicting life in 2020 disrupted by COVID-19. The idea was conceived after their production of Wagner’s Die Walküre was cancelled because of the pandemic.

(Left: Conductor Jeremy Silver)

The KZNPO’s performance of the Overture had a decisive start. The opening solo in the oboe was surreal. The rhythmic drive throughout was not forced nor was it prioritized over the story-telling of the motifs. Internationally-renowned conductor, Jeremy Silver, who is the Director of the Opera School at the University of Cape Town and who has staged productions in numerous notable venues abroad, communicated well with the orchestra. Indeed, throughout, one sensed that there was a constant dialogue between him and the players.

In the “Una donna a quindici anni”, a comfortable tempo was selected. Renowned local soprano, Kimmy Skota, was one with the orchestra, fostering a good dialogue with the players. She was comfortable on stage and had good intonation. She convincingly acted out her part as the maid Despina and there was conviction in her words.

The genesis of Verdi’s La Traviata was not a simple matter. In April of 1852, Verdi had agreed to write a new opera for the Carnival 1853 season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice to a libretto provided by Francesco Maria Piave. However, by as late as October of that year, no subject had been decided upon. It was only by November that Verdi and Piave decided to base their opera on La dame aux camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils. In the orchestra’s performance of the Prelude to Act I, Silver shaped the opening chords with much savour. There was a hauntingly beautiful melody in the lower strings that conveyed the romantic sentiment of the music. The cellos stood out in this concert.

In the orchestra’s performance of the “È strano...Follie! follie...Sempre libera”, Skota’s voice rang out. She conveyed the anguish of the protagonist effectively, acting out the story and working with the orchestra to this end. The Principal Cellist, Boris Kerimov, is to be complimented on his melodious and soulful playing, which was one of the highlights of the concert. The technique was never a challenge for Skota so she was free to enjoy the unfolding of the drama. Each of her phrases was a perfectly-sculpted entity, traversing a multitude of nuances of meaning, colour and articulatory effects.

Brahms seems to have been more preoccupied with his First Symphony than any other work. Interestingly, he only made two references to the work. The first was in 1862 when he sent a draft for the first movement to Clara Schumann. The second was also in a letter to Clara, in 1868, in which he quotes the Alphorn theme. He only completed the work in 1876. The orchestra’s performance of the Un poco sostenuto - Allegro started with conviction with a nice choice of tempo. There was strict adherence to the meter. This dictated all the aspects of the performance. The Andante sostenuto ensued naturally from the Un poco sostenuto - Allegro. There was a plaintive oboe solo. The players seemed to anticipate and enjoy the entrances of the key themes.

The conductor was thoroughly involved in every aspect of the music. His hand gestures actively served to sculpt each detail the way he wanted it. The Un poco allegretto e grazioso had a flowing, tranquil opening. The climaxes grew naturally. In the opening of the Adagio – Allegro non troppo, ma con brio, there was a sense of looking back to the beginning of the symphony. The orchestra succeeded in creating a sense of suspense in this movement where other orchestras tend to create a sense of melancholy and reflection. Perhaps this was attributable to the focus on metric integrity or a focus on the overall thematic structure of the work as a whole. The signature theme of this movement did not suffer from this but rather became one with the other thematic material. The phrase endings were imbued with grandeur. The music never lacked momentum. This was thanks to a combination of innovative phrasing and technical proficiency and continued adherence to the selected meter. The momentum was preserved to the end. An enthusiastic conductor who inspired enthusiasm in the orchestra. - Dr Martin Goldstein

The fourth and final concert of the KZNPO’s Virtual Summer Season will be available from 19h30 on Thursday March 25, 2021, until 23h30 on Sunday March 28, 2021. Tickets R200 booked through Quicket.

To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit