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Jun 30, 2013

Episode 160: The Force of Destiny, opening night Opera Australia a huge success

A brand spanking new production of Verdi's "La forza del destino" was met with open arms by an enthusiastic Sydney opening night audience at the opera house on Saturday evening.

A dark and bloody production, one can almost smell the rotting corpses. Dimly lit, Mark Thompson's costumes, makeup design and sets work beautifully to keep the audience immersed in the story. A well rounded cast of strong singers brought Verdi's intentions to fruition.

First performed in 1682 at the Bolshoi, this work is seldom performed in this part of the world, and though I did manage to see it in Melbourne in the eighties at the Victorian State Opera, this is a far superior account. Director, Tama Matheson, took the risk of making this already dark opera even more macabre, but the whole work was completely watchable and compelling.

The grim tale of manslaughter, love and shame is overseen by roaming fortune teller Preziosilla, coercing the menacing hand of destiny throughout; a stroke of directorial brilliance that tied the story line together and maintained our attention, thanks to the constant care given her character by Rinat Shaham, known so well to the Sydney public for her performances as that other gypsy fortune teller.
Rinat Shaham as Preziosilla
The chorus played a large part in this production and were subtle in the right places and were always in time with the orchestra no matter where they were placed.  The supporting roles were very convincingly played by our local singers.

Giacomo Prestia has a fabulous bass voice, and his dealings with his raucous underling, played by Warwick Fyfe, gave us some light relief. In fact, the artistic intensity of all of the male cast members was quite awe inspiring, allowing the subtlety and austerity of the action to remain true. Sword fighting stripped to its bare bones, deaths and grievous bodily penetrations were completely believable and well staged. 

Riccardo Massi, in his debut as Don Alvaro, was a joy to listen to, his velvety tenor voice filling the house without  strain. He's going to have a fabulous career. 
Jonathan Summers, whom many of us heard in the Traviata on the harbour last year (I caught it in the movie theatre in New York City) gave a performance that demonstrates why he is so well regarded in the profession. Secure and convincing throughout, Summers' acting matched his musicianship.
Jonathan Summers, Rinat Shaham and Riccardo Massi

Summers and Massi: awe inspiring duet

Riccardo Massi triumphed in his debut as Don Alvaro
Singing the gargantuan role of Leonore, and making her first appearance in Australia was Soprano: Svetla Vassileva from Bulgaria. Consistently yelling "brava", the Sydney audience greeted her warmly. It's hard to imagine how such a large voice can be generated in such a small body, but she's singing these vast roles around the world with great panache.
Soprano: Svetla Vassileva in her Australian Debut as Leonora

Later at ECQ Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia's artistic director, and former lyric baritone, thanked his international cast and artistic team, pointing out that he'd given Tama one of the most difficult operas in the repertoire to direct.
Lyndon Terracini

Mezzo Soprano: Rinat Shaham chats with the public

Bass: Giacomo Prestia at the bar with Maestro Andrea Licata
Details: see Opera Australia's press release

Some background on the production:

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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