Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Is it too early to declare what the highlight of Opera Australia’s season is? 5 performances only seems a sin when a show is this good. For once, I’m actually stumped for words and have no idea how to write a review that will ultimately just be over flowing with praise for the sheer excellence that is the Opera Australia Chorus. Thank goodness someone finally saw sense and gave them their own show.
Let’s start with the opening “Begluckt dark nun (Pilgrims Chorus) from Tannhauser, a chilling warmth ringing through the opera house as the chorus emerged from the dark. And in this show they have done just that – they have emerged to be seen for what they truly are. Not a supporting act that can be wheeled out to in every other opera but their own force and entity. A group of vocalists so brilliant and in sync, words do not justify their excellence. Their voices resound through the theatre so much that it pierces the soul and raises the hairs on your arm. Sensationally poignant and at times so authentically funny, unique to their incredible Australian-ness, this show dazzles and delights at every turn.
The soloists are exceptional in their own right and perhaps some of the best voices I have heard at the Opera House in quite some time. What talent we have in this country that is hiding in the depths of a chorus – if only they had more opportunity to show off their skills. Special mention to Jin Tea Kim who performed the stand out solo of the night. This tenor voice may be the best tenor voice I have heard on the Opera House stage in quite some time. With purity, richness of tone, brilliant control and exemplary musicality, his solo had me on the edge of my seat BEGGING for more. And then he fell back into line and blended perfectly with his colleagues, his voice indistinguishable in the resounding glory of the chorus for the rest of the show. I would happily purchase a ticket to anything with his name billed on it.
The stage is bear, set like a rehearsal room, with only two grand piano’s to accompany this fabulous ensemble. I would have liked more – heck, after that show, the OA chorus deserve more. They deserve a full orchestra, lavish costumes (and costume changes), a full set and the spectacle that comes and is often associated with opera. They have proven they do not need it. They do well with just their voices, their expression, their movements. They work so cohesively and support each other beautifully. But they do deserve more – and the next time genius strikes and they are given the space for their own show, I hope they get it.
They save the best to last with Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. That is a moment I will not forget for the rest of my life. I had goosebumps and tears welled in my eyes at the sheer force, beauty and lavish sound that poured through the theatre. Simply astonishing.
I hope to see this show again before it closes. If you buy one ticket to an Opera Australia show this year than let it be this one.