"Around the Sun" concert - the Lisa “Great Mozartorium”
by Wis Jablonski V-Pres.
It has been fifty years since Liesl from The Sound of Music was introduced to the world, and it is now five years since the conception of the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School at Griffith University in Brisbane.
Like the sun when it shines promotes the growth of the beautiful flowers, such has been the quest of the famous Wagnerian soprano Lisa Gasteen, AO to establish the National School so the most promising young singers could be coached by the very best in the Opera Arts in Brisbane.
And they came from all over Australia to be willingly put through the tortuous mental and physical process to reach their ultimate pinnacle of singing.
A great deal has been achieved during the last five years; many alumni of the School received international recognition and prestigious awards were received by various students among them Elizabeth Lewis, Panayiota Kalatzis, Bronwyn Douglas, Ian Henderson, Eleanor Greenwood, Kathryn Radcliffe, Jeremy Kleeman and Matthew Reardon to name only a few.
Prior to the Gala Concert 2015 on the 28th of November the School produced a scintillating programme named “Once Around the Sun”. This was a stylishly designed programme around the seasons (no Vivaldi’s Four Seasons here) and commencing with Winter accompanied by carefully selected pieces. Needless to say this was an instant hit with the audience. The resulting success of the evening was due to the performing artists, including Maestra herself and a sparkling, witty talk of Compere/Repetiteur, Mr Philip Mayers. A total of twenty eight aspiring opera singers have presented their best in a variety of languages, which included Italian, German, Russian, Polish and French. Being a polyglot myself I could appreciate the efforts they put into the pronunciation and interpretation of some of these difficult languages.
It really has been a Feast of Lucullus, satisfying body and mind as the three course splendid dinner and the company of “one artist per table” was included, making this a unique and stimulating evening all round.
Again, I very much admired the following artists: Rebecca Moret, Desiree Frahn, Robert Barbaro, Rebecca Gulinello, Bronwyn Douglas and Morgan Balfour. I would like to emphasize however that this was a strictly personal and difficult choice as all of the artists were simply GREAT.
And at the conclusion of the evening and to the acclaim of all, Dominique Fegan (photo below) showed us the other side of her. Not only she maintains the NOS Newsletter and had organized the whole event, but also sang tenderly supported by the whole operatic team. Brava Dominique!!
Only two weeks later on Friday the 11th of December the “OPERA GALA” was held in the Conservatorium Theatre. The future opera stars have had only two weeks’ preparatory time to learn their roles, and to act and perform the semi-staged scenes and ensembles from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni (twice), Le Nozze di Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito directed by New Zealand Opera's General Director Stuart Maunder AM. They accomplished those tasks brilliantly supported by the QSO and Conservatorium Chamber Singers coached by Norma Marschke. The Orchestra was conducted by Richard Hetherington and Dottore Giovanni Reggioli (photo below).
For our Opera cognoscenti further information regarding classification of Mozart works and their place in the current operatic setting and the performance order of the evening is presented below.
Cosi fan tutte (All Women Do the Same, Kochel’s K 588) is a drama giocoso (drama with jokes). Finale Act 2 was performed by a superb team of six; I have been very much impressed by two brilliant sopranos Lucy Bailles and Bronwyn Douglas (photo below).
Idomeneo, Re di Creta (Idomeneus, King of Crete, K 366) is a drama musica/an opera seria in 3 acts, TWO of them were performed by a team of four and it was GREAT! After many decades of neglecting it, Idomeneo is now a part of the standard operatic repertoire.
Don Giovanni (K 527), a drama giocoso per musica, was presented TWICE that evening; The finale Act 1, by a team of seven and after the interval, Act 2 by a team of six; another hit!!
La Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, K 492) is a typical opera buffa; one of the most performed Mozart’s opera just behind Die Zauberflote (K 620). With a vigour and hilarity in the Act 2 the team of five gave us a true feeling of our La Nozze.
And finally, La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus, (the 10th Roman Emperor), opera seria, K 621) where the team of six performed Act 1 and Act 2, with a strength and vitality. Tito was sung by Branko Lovrinov (photo below), who projected his LARGE voice with a confidence and might With a little more control over his powerful voice Branko’s future is secure.
Again Bronwyn Douglas as Annio and Desiree Frahn as Servillia impressed me the most.
The history of La Clemenza is a bit controversial; written for the coronation of Emperor Leopold as King of Bohemia, Empress Maria Luisa described the opera as “ porcheria tedesca” -- a German piggery. Regardless, it has enjoyed its popularity with the general operatic audiences. Friends of Opera members will have the opportunity to see the whole opus in March 2016 as a part of their programme for 2016.
After performance and well deserved prolonged applause, the young stars joined a large crowd of well-wishers, families and officials for a party in the foyer of the Conservatorium.
The 5th anniversary's commendable speeches were followed by finger food and drinks; atmosphere has certainly been lively reminiscent of the old operas of the 17th century when food and drinks, perfume and candles were the part of a performance. Ah, good old times /die gute alte Zeit / bei tempi andati.
I managed to exchange a few sentences with the Maestri and the stars of the evening and felt invigorated and assured that all is well in the OPERA advancements and the future for our young stars is bright.
To continue to maintain its tremendous momentum, - like any other project, even as notable as Lisa Gasteen’s, the National Opera School will require funds to survive and prosper.
That is where we all can help. With our donations, the patronage of Griffith University and a panel of acclaimed teachers, the School’s reputation will be spreading across the world.
So, as always, it is up to us, the opera lovers to contribute; perhaps not large amounts but in large numbers. Donations to the Griffith University/Lisa Gasteen National Opera School are tax deductible.
In conclusion, I felt privileged to be present at both of these functions and in the company of such celebrities as Lisa Gasteen and her associates.
Friends of Opera Inc wish them every success.