Music Not Just Another South African Debut

Not Just Another South African Debut

Based on a loose-fitting storyline that explores the ecstasy and turbulence reminiscent of relationships, creator and director Yves Senn has skilfully woven a dramatic sub-text to a potpourri of operatic highlights. Mezzo soprano, Violina Anguelov, and tenor, Herman Theron, are both consummate artists who bring a wealth of experience to this professional production.

Herman Theron and Violina Anguelov in the show "Not Just Another Night at the Opera" in the Rhodes chapel in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015 at the 2015 national Arts Festival. The performance was the first time the show had been performed in South Africa. (Photo: CuePix / Jeff stretton-Bell)

Herman Theron and Violina Anguelov in the show “Not Just Another Night at the Opera” in the Rhodes chapel in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015 at the 2015 national Arts Festival. The performance was the first time the show had been performed in South Africa. (Photo: CuePix / Jeff stretton-Bell)

Making its South African debut at the National Arts Festival, Not Just Another Night at the Opera is a well-paced production where moments of dramatic intensity alternate with gentler portrayals of tenderness, though the energetic thread is maintained leading to some shatteringly effective climaxes and a humorously tinged conclusion. As the production seamlessly moves through 300 years of operatic repertoire, every crevice of the Rhodes Chapel resonates in sympathy with the deeply charged timbre of these two singers.

From the opening notes of Leoncavallo’s Vesti la guibba, Theron impresses with his authoritative artistic presence, meaningful nuances which invest the melodic line with creative intention, and utter musical and technical command.

A professional to his fingertips, Theron excites as Ramiro in Rossini’s Un soave non so che, especially his colouring of florid melisma patterns, and sense for nuanced musically directed propulsion. As Cenerentola, Anguelov astounds with fine pyrotechnical displays, and sense for perfect union when partnering with Theron. In O Dieu! De quelle ivresse, Theron and Anguelov showcase their thorough, deep seated understanding and appreciation for the genre with Anguelov conveying remarkable capacity for dramatic concentration, and Theron investing his role with an unsurpassed vocabulary of vocal shadings focused toward theatrical characterization. Similarly, varying states of drama in Mascagni’s Tu qui Santuzza were conveyed with compelling conviction and artistic integrity.

A simply magnificent performer, Anguelov beguiled with long-limbed phrasing and mellifluous tone as Dalilah in Saint Saëns’s Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix, joining with Theron in a wonderfully graded climax exuding sheer emotionalism. Seguidilla from Bizet’s Carmen received sultry, sensuous treatment where Anguelov, with complete mastery, revealed every expressive twist and turn in the score. Anguelov’s full-bodied, even spread of tone, and expressive use of extensive vocal powers, saw her flawlessly negotiate Mozart’s tempestuous passionate terrain in Smanie implacabili. This was a performance from the top drawer. Surprisingly, Anguelov’s English diction in Bernstein’s What a Movie is yet to develop clarity.

Pianist, Samantha Riedel, had her hands full playing some of the most demanding operatic repertoire in piano reduction format. With outstanding control over digital accuracy, sweeping scale passages, and a plethora of filigree figurations, Riedel performed her task with diligence, also joining the dramatic conversation and fray on occasion. Yet, Riedel consistently underplayed the dramatic and emotional import of the scores, never venturing to proffer a hint of orchestral colour. Riedel needs to perform on a wider canvas where rich sonorous cantabile tone is projected across the hall, and chordal interpolations punctuate the tapestry with dramatic vigour. In these scores the emotional and dramatic argument is propelled by the orchestra, and this must be appropriated in the piano realization of this music.

With a well-deserved standing ovation this performance concluded with a theatrically convincing interpretation of Offenbach’s Ah quel diner where every nuance added to the inebriated characterization.

Highly, highly recommended. Bravo!

Jeff Brukman
Cue Specialist Writer

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