Venue: Sat 18th Feb at Gillingham Hall in Annesley College
Sun 19th Feb at Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio, Adelaide Showground, Goodwood
Season: Doors open 6:30pm, BYO supper and drinks. Performance commences 7:30pm Sat 18th and Sun 19th Feb.
Duration: 2hrs 30 mins with 20 mins interval
Tickets: adult $36/conc and Friends of Co-Opera $30
Bookings: Friends of Co-Opera 8233 6261 or DramaTix
Founder and Musical Director, Brian Chatterton, has been out and about to see if he can find some young, up and coming singers to add to his already enviable group of performers. Having discovered almost a dozen emerging artists, all female, he decided to create an evening to showcase their skills, and Giacomo Puccini’s (1858-1924) one act opera, Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica), set entirely in a convent near Siena, provided a most suitable vehicle. Any opera, though, has a mix of large roles, smaller roles, and down to a few short passages and chorus numbers and so, in order that we could better appreciate the skills of each singer, the first half of the evening was given over to a series of arias, chosen by the singers.
It was very quickly apparent that Chatterton had every reason to be excited by his discoveries as, one after another, they thrilled, delighted and thoroughly impressed a most discerning audience, including established opera singers, and serious lovers of opera, who were there especially to see what the future had to offer. There were no disappointments in this varied assortment of what amounted to operatic highlights.
Four of the singers chose arias by Mozart, two turned to Handel, and the rest opted for Puccini, Purcell, Catalini, Saint-Saens and Ponchielli, with two returning to present a duet from Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte. The one that that they all had in common was that the singers showed a strong understanding of their pieces and had the talent and skill to do them justice.
Then came Puccini's opera and Sister Angelica has been at the convent for seven years, sent there by her family, but why she was sent is a secret she keeps to herself. There is an air of sadness about her. The early part of the opera is a series of scenes of everyday life in the convent, nuns arriving late being chastised, Angelica mixing her potions, interactions between the nuns and more.
Things change when Sister Angelica's aunt, the Princess, arrives and demands she signs papers relinquishing all claim to her heritage in favour of her sister, who is about to marry. Sister Angelica hesitates until she is told that her illegitimate son died two years previously. She signs and her aunt leaves. She makes a potion, which she takes and, having committed a mortal sin, prays for forgiveness. She hears the sisters singing as she passes away and, in death, she is reunited with her child.
Verity Colyer appeared in the role of Sister Angelica, a role shared with Dione Palmer, on the Saturday, and Sharon Turley, on the Sunday. None of the other roles are shared. Colyer gave a sensitive performance with plenty of light and shade, and a most notable rendition of the aria, Senza Mamma, always an audience favourite.
As the Monitor and the Mistress of Novices, Emma Hills and Bethany Ide are suitably authoritative, as they guide the nuns in their duties and devotions, and Fiona McArdle presents an austere outlook and shows her contempt of Sister Angelica for shaming the family. Victoria Anderson, as the Abbess, also carries herself with an authoritative air and shows her disdain for the Princess's manipulations. Bethany McAleer adds some nice touches as Sister Geneveive. Monique Watson, Ailinn Baldassi-Winderlich and Karina Jay, Sharon Turley and Dione Palmer all contribute to creating the atmosphere of a closed convent, finding some occasional light-heartedness amidst their duties.
All of the solo passages were sung with confidence, accuracy and clarity, making it clear that all of these emerging artists have the potential for exciting futures in opera. The chorus numbers, too, showed that their ensemble work is as strong as their individual singing, and the solos from the first half were a clear indication of the excellent work that was to come in the opera.
Once again, Co-Opera presented a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding evening of fine music under the musical direction of Brian Chatterton, who also provided the piano accompaniment, and the direction of Nicholas Cannon, who got to the core of this work and ensured that the singers also knew how to act and bring out the inner emotional content and subtle nuances of the libtretto.
It is inconceivable that this vitally important group, who provide work for many artists and others, and take opera to the country, should have had their Government funding completely cut, especially when one considers that they are world standard, taking their work overseas this year. They are in good company as Leigh Warren and Dancers, another essential part of Australia's and the world's Arts scene, also lost theirs. Let us hope that petitions currently being sent to them cause the Government funding bodies to realise their insane errors and rectify them.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.