Review by Olivia Ruggiero
There seems no better way to celebrate the Opera House’s 50th birthday than with one of Australia’s greatest sopranos and the magnificent Opera Australia Orchestra under the baton of Johannes Fritzsch.
The orchestra opens the evening with Nabucco Overture by Giuseppe Verdi and it is in this first instance that the audience is enraptured. Fritzsch conducts with great passion and his facial expressions are priceless! Such an entertaining and engaged conductor who has such a wonderful rapport with his orchestra members.
Pratt arrives adorned in a fabulous white dress, with rose gold features and a marching cape – she is a vision and has all the vocal prowess to match her stunning façade. She opens with a rendition of ‘La nello mio... Ah non credea mirarti... Ah non giunge’ from La Sonnambula by Bellini, and after she is done there can be no doubt that this woman, this glowing soprano is the embodiment of the Bel Canto style. She oozes charisma, her coloratura work is flawless, and every note is imbued with meaning, every run has an intention behind it and she sings with purity and focus that is second to none.
The costuming behind the show is magnificent – with the Opera Australis wardrobe stores being put to good use. When Pratt emerges in her deranged state, dressed in a white wedding dress stained with blood, her hair loose and a veil over her face, she is the very vision of Sutherland as Lucia – she emulates Sutherland as much in her look as in her voice – for there is no one else as glorious to compare her too. And then she tackles all 19 minutes of that mad scene and at the end of it, all I could think was, “someone revive Lucia at the Sydney Opera House and cast this woman – QUICKLY.” She dances with the solo flautist in her maddened state with pitch perfect harmony and brilliant agility. It’s an incredible way to end Act 1 and there is a moment where you think “how will Act 2 be any better than this…” which in hindsight seems now a ridiculous question because Pratt is simply not done wowing with her voice and Opera Australia Orchestra has more to give!
Pratt impresses in the second act with more Bel Canto madness featuring ‘O rendetemi la speme... Qui la voce sua soave... Vien diletto è in ciel la luna’ from I Puritani by Bellini and finishes with ‘Carlo Carlo... Nel silenzio della sera... No non è ver mentirono’ from Linda di Chamounix by Donizetti. But she’s not done yet – after several bows, a standing ovation and calls for more, Pratt whips off the lavish red costume she is wearing to reveal a slinky glittery black number that warrants more applause from her adoring audience. She then gives us a show – a real show with Bernstein’s “Glitter and Be Gay”, and here we get to see the funny and witty Pratt, who not only delivers this number with all of the frivolity it needs but doesn’t hold back on her vocal fireworks.
Opera Australia’s season has been a smash this year, with very few weak moments and this would have to be on the highlights reel. The only shame? It was one night only, so if you missed out on it, you’ll have to try and catch Jessica Pratt another time – she’s well worth the price of a ticket and all the standing ovations in the world. Brava to this Diva, a true soprano and the Opera Australia Orchestra who are, as always, in fine form.