The Lawchestra is holding its third major concert. To recap, we played a symphony and some other straight orchestral pieces in the first, and nailed it. Then we played an ambitious programme centred on a beautiful performance of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto by Natasha Lin. Now, we’ve teamed up with the Opera Studio of Melbourne, an elite training ground for future opera stars, to bring you the entertaining bits from the vast world of opera. Please do come (more below). Book here or, if you have no sympathy for the organisers who need the reassurance of advance ticket sales, pay at the door.
And there’s another thing. Our wonderful conductor, Robert Dora, has composed a symphony (‘Symphony to an ANZAC’). One of his other orchestras gave it its world premiere the other weekend and it will be broadcast between 11 a.m. and noon on ANZAC Day on 3MBS. I’ll be listening. You can hear a snippet here. Performances of new symphonies composed in Melbourne are a rarity. And this one is approachable and wonderful: tonal, brooding, Shostakovichesque
Let us be frank. There are some very bad operas. Even outstanding composers like Shostakovich and Prokofiev produced operas which are a trial to sit through. I sat through a dreadful opera by Richard Strauss at La Scala in Milan once. The grandeur of the theatre and the excitement of being at La Scala ameliorated things for about 20 minutes, but after that it was agony. Then, there are lots of bad bits in all but the best operas, like the plots, the recitatives and three quarters of the arias. For example, though I warrant that the overture to Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’, which we’re playing, is great fun (Bugs Bunny’s excellent take is here), one of my favourite clients fell asleep in about Act 2 when for some reason I can no longer fathom I took her to the opera on my then firm’s expense account. (Interesting fact: the overture to The Barber contains none of the tunes of the opera (as overtures customarily do, serving as a taster to what’s for dinner) because Rossini just recycled it from an earlier opera in which he had recycled it from an earlier one still (the intriguing ‘Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra’).)
Which is why it is so great that the Lawchestra and Opera Studio have picked out 12 of the best bits of some of the best operas and from some average operas which happen to have good bits: the overture with the can-can in it from ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ featuring beautiful solos from our concertmaster Xinyu Zhang and first clarinettist Kier Svendsen, the most famous of all arias from Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ (‘Brindisi‘), and a sextet from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ which is about a philanderer of 2,000 conquests who drops through the floor into Hell as the earth opens up and the furies grab him down upon his refusal to repent his sins: one of opera’s best moments. The opera was originally titled ‘The Libertine Punished’ and is about to be presented by Opera Australia. Then there is a snippet from Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Trial by Jury’, the Easter Hymn from Mascagani’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, etc., etc. and, maybe, if you scream, stomp, wolf whistle and chant ‘More!’ like a proper opera audience, something from what is obviously missing from that list, everyone’s favourite opera.
What a rarity then. A night of opera with not a single dud note. No recitatives. No need to busy yourself following the twee and frankly ridiculous story. No subtitles to get angry about the mismatched timing of. And no heaving-bosomed warblers. The rest of the world seems to adulate the shriek of the ‘fully developed’ operatic soprano. Not me. I like my opera singers under-developed, more Emma Kirkby than Joan Sutherland, more early Cecilia Bartoli than Maria Callas. Which is what we have on offer for you; I tell you again, the singers are exquisite and their youth an advantage to the casual audience member.
Finally the whole afternoon is going to be hosted by Tony Walker who will add a fun and informal air to the occasion by introducing each piece and the singers.