Classical Bravo for bravura performance

Bravo for bravura performance

Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, Runette Botha, enticed and beguiled an appreciative audience throughout her inaugural Festival recital. From the moment this statuesque beauty entered the stage, she conveyed professional artistic  dedication and skill that compelled attention.

In a wide-ranging programme that covered six languages, Botha moved effortlessly between a myriad musical styles and genres, inhabiting each artistic locale with confidence and creative  understanding.

In the opening aria, Tornami a vagheggiar, Botha displayed total command over Handel’s floridly constructed vocal lines, as well as an animated appreciation for Baroque ornamentation. Equally impressive was the change of colour as the  music entered the darker inflections contained within the middle section of its tripartite design.

This aria showcased Botha’s extraordinary technical abilities, and from the outset her evenlyproduced tone across registral changes, and unforced stratospheric intoning, indicated a fine artist with superior performance abilities.

Juxtaposing this impressive opening with a brace of art songs in Spanish and German, Botha revealed her versatility and ability to become immersed, quickly and thoroughly, in an everchanging sonic kaleidoscope. Three Spanish songs from the cycle Canciones clásicas españolas showed her aptitude to infuse each nuance and phrase with character and meaning.

Through coupling effortlessly executed, long-limbed phrasing with sultry languidness, Del cabello más sutil received an interpretation that appropriated the emotional milieu of this song’s evocative text.

In the three Strauss art songs she revealed her capacity as a disciplined performer with a complete understanding for the idiom. Ständchen’s German text received sensitive colouring, creating space for Botha’s phrasing to cajole and
captivate as the music moved toward its carefully constructed climax. Her mesmerising stillness at the close of Morgen was one of the afternoon’s most arresting moments.

Unfortunately, pianist Audrey Hyland underplayed the harmonic  richness and warm textural tapestry evident in Strauss’s writing.

At times Hyland’s emotional reticence marred complete appreciation with Berloiz’s La mort d’Ophélie being a case in point.

Here insufficient support for Botha’s long-range phrase propulsion and soaring climaxes robbed the performance of artistic chemistry, though Botha’s evocative griefladen nuances added substantially to the artistic image. In many instances Hyland approaches dynamic indications too literally without considering emotional projection throughout the venue.

However, in Chiquitita la novia Hyland surprised through showing complete identification with the text, revelling in the virtuosity of the accompaniment’s setting.

In Verdi’s Caro nome Botha revealed her affinity for producing natural,  unforced vocal lines in which each phrase is presented with untrammelled purity.

Her attention to detail and flawless intonation were incomparable, with the absence of glottal shocks revealing the emergence of an international star.

Botha’s affinity for Russian melancholy was expressively moving in Rachmaninoff’s Ne poy, krasavista, pri mne, especially at moments when the music transformed into atmospherically created phrases that exposed her distinctive control over floating upper tessitura. In this performance, Hyland’s emotional involvement was palpably apparent as the two artists propelled each phrase toward far-reaching emotional depths.

Two character songs by Bernstein and Britten highlighted Botha’s engaging communication skills, outstanding diction, and penchant for perfectly gauged characterisation.

Botha’s complete being is infused in portraying the music’s character, with remarkable use of facial expression (particularly her eyes) showing complete oneness with each portrayal.

Both artists revelled in the Romantic schmaltz of Refice’s Ombra di nube, and the concert ended with a spine-tingling rendition of an early 20th century Afrikaans art song (1931) composed by S le Roux Marais, Malie die slaaf se lied.

This recital was a highly commendable performance from one of South Africa’s most sought after operatic stars with an exciting, emerging international profile. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Runette Botha performs at the Rhodes Chapel at in Grahamstown. Botha is the Standard Bank Young Artist for Music and has won the Philip Schock Foundation Competition. (Photo: CuePix/Philip Wilson)

Jeff Brukman

Leave a Reply

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in D:\iis\cue\wp-content\plugins\gantry\core\gantrygzipper.class.php on line 153