Opera is definitely not for everyone. Some may see it as a whole lot of tragedy and death in a language they don't understand or even somewhere you can sneak in a quick nap whilst also impressing your date. On the other hand, if you're like myself and just love music, Opera Hits is the perfect Sunday afternoon outing. A veritable smorgasbord of classics, this production is like dipping your toe into the opera ocean rather than jumping head first into shark infested waters.
To preface, I am most certainly a novice in the opera world, with only a best friend pursuing a career as the spark that lit this operatic fire. Introducing me to some classics, I was hooked and couldn’t get enough, playing my favourites for hours on end. So when I saw Opera Hits pop up on my computer screen as one of those all-too-irritating facebook ads, my interest was piqued. I grabbed another opera novice and off we went.
A cocktail at opera bar, some cheese in the opera house and before we knew it, the show was on!
As for the chosen songs, the audience were constantly entertained with a glorious mix of arias and duets. Directing the evening was Guy Noble, acting as both pianist and MC with his witty repartee that always kept us on our toes. Turning to the performances themselves, the clear favourites were a seductive 'Seguidilla' by Anna Yun and a powerful ‘Toreador’ by Luke Gabbedy, both from Bizet's Carmen, and the beautifully familiar 'Flower Duet' by both Anna Yun and Natalie Aroyan from Delibes' Lakmé. All four singers were highly skilled in their craft, with some making a greater impression than others. Of the two women, Anna Yun proved graceful and captivating, whilst Natalie Aroyan brought a sense of professionalism and expression to her performances. Of all four performers, Luke Gabbedy looked most at home on the stage with an energetic rendition of the complex ‘Largo al factotum’ from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville to open the show.
However, not all the performers were such a success in this viewer's humble opinion. At the end of the first half, my favourite duet of all time was fast approaching and I waited with baited breath to hear the rendition of ‘Au fond du temple saint’ from Bizet’s The Pearlfishers. At this point, I had not yet heard the vocal stylings of Simon Kim but after experiencing those of Luke Gabbedy, I had high hopes. Whilst I remained impressed with Gabbedy’s contribution, I felt that Simon Kim found this difficult duet a challenge and at points it got the better of him. At times, Kim did not quite have the punch this duet truly required, which also went for his performance of the powerful ‘Nessun dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot. With both of these being two of my favourites, I must admit I was underwhelmed. However, having said that, his rendition of ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Puccini’s Tosca was hauntingly beautiful and suited his voice to a T, clearly playing to his strengths. In fact, it became one of my unexpected personal favourites of the day and managed to turn my unanticipated frown upside down.
Finally, to round off the evening, one of the clear highlights was when the audience themselves were invited to live any unfulfilled opera dreams as the ensemble for the encore of Verdi's 'Brindisi' from La Traviata. Whilst many of us should most definitely not quit our day jobs, this had us all swaying like trees in a breeze, echoing the familiar tune (if not always in key). Overall, it was a great day out despite some audience members’ frightful faux pas (handy hint: if you want to take a sneaky shot, make sure there is no flash. Not only because it’s the height of discourtesy, but because the ushers will massacre you and I will pierce your soul with my stare of a thousand daggers).
That aside, I now feel I am armed with the basics and that next time I'll be prepared to dip in more than just a toe!