by Jim Briscoe

The concert was a celebration of ten wonderful years since the company was formed. The material used had been chosen from the ten fully staged operas, the many charitable concerts and their previous Opera Suppers they had performed during those ten years.

This was my first visit to see Opera Viva perform and I hope it won’t be my last. If I am honest and I pride myself on my honesty, my knowledge of opera is limited, but having said that, what I do know a little more about is performance, enjoyment, team togetherness, quality singing, clarity of voice, talented musicians and outstanding performers all of who were in abundance that evening. From the first note to the last you could just tell that everyone involved was having the time of their lives and giving of their best and that is all you can ask or expect.

Before the start of this most enjoyable evening, we, the audience, were treated to a superb meal of Lasagne and Tiramisu. The concert was performed in two acts and compered by Peter McColgan and David Palmer who, between them, introduced proceedings, gave the audience a background to each piece sung, identified the composer and from which opera it was taken and a little bit of where it sat within the storyline, which was really helpful and informative, especially for a novice such as myself.

The concert consisted of the following:

Act 1 - “Prologue and The Bell Chorus” from Leoncavallo’s - I Pagliacci; “Quando M’en Vo” from Puccini’s - La Bohème; “O, Isis and Osiris” from Mozart’s - The Magic Flute; “O, Mio Babbino Caro” (Oh my beloved father) from Puccini’s – Gianni Schicchi; "Toréador, en garde! and Habanera", from Bizet’s - Carmen; “Soave Sia il Vento” from Mozart’s - Cosi Fan Tutte; “Anvil Chorus” from Verdi’s - II Trovatore; “One Fine Day” from Puccini’s - Madame Butterfly; “Recondita Armonia” from Puccini’s - Tosca; “Voi Io Sapete,o Mama and the Easter Hymn” form Mascagni’s - Cavalleria Rusticana

Act 2 – “ Peasants’ Chorus and Gremin’s aria” from Tchaikovsky’s – Eugene Onegin; “ O Don Fatale” from Verdi’s – Don Carlos; “Maxim’s” from Lehár’s – The Merry Widow; “Bleed, Poor Country!” from Verdi’s – Macbeth; “Là Ci Darem la Mano” from Mozart’s – Don Giovanni; “Che Faro Senza Euridice?” from Gluck’s – Orfeo ed Euridice; “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s – Otello; “La Calunnia” from Rossini’s – The Barber of Seville; “Flower Duet” from Delibes’s – Lakme; “O Sole Mio” from one of Eduardo di Capua’s Neapolitan Songs; “In Questa Reggia” from Puccini’s – Turandot; “Va Pensiero” from Verdi’s - Nabucco

I have purposely excluded names from this review simply because I honestly believe that this was a real ‘team effort’ with everyone giving of their best! But, having said that, I really do think it would be remiss of me not to highlight my six personal favourite performances (I tried three/four and five... but found that it impossible), so here goes with my six. These are ‘MY’ favourites and I’m sure, if you were to have asked any other person from the audience that night, they would probably come up with a completely different list for completely different reasons... but here I go...

My first choice was David Palmer and Walter Rogers rendition of “O Sole Mio” from Act 2, one of the most beloved Neapolitan songs by Eduardo di Capua. It was sung and acted with such ease and was delight to witness. Stage presence, humour, facial expressions, banter.... well done guys!

Secondly was a truly wonderful rendition of ‘Habanera’ from Bizet’s Carmen sung by Lorna Kettle... what a great vocal performance this was...well done!

A further touch of humour came from Steve Riordan; his rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Gremin’s aria from Eugene Onegin was another great inclusion. Steve had great stage presence and truly sold this song ... well done sir!

We are now going from great to amazing....two powerful pieces from the amazingly talented Lorna Rushton who almost brought the house (or should I say the college) down. Lorna’s rendition in Act One of ‘Voi Lo Sapete, o Mama’ from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana was bettered only in Act Two by ‘In Questa Reggia’ from Puccini’s Turandot.... it truly was a privilege to be present!

We get better and better.... I think I am right in suggesting that this was the first appearance of Nataliia Temnyk with the Opera Viva Company and what an acquisition she was. Nataliia sang two pieces, the first in Act One ‘Quando M’en Vo’ from Puccini’s La Boheme was outstanding...but we then went to a whole new level with her rendition of ‘Ave Maria’ from Verdi’s Otello. A powerful performance from a lady with major talent!

But the ‘showstopper’ for me was Kerry Firth. Such an inspirational young lady and an amazing singer, her rendition of “O, Mio Babbino Caro (Oh my beloved father) from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi in Act one brought ‘tears to my eyes’ and ‘shivers down my spine’ ...it was truly an incredible vocal. Kerry also dueted with Clare Hyams in Act Two, their rendition of Delibes ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakme, was another truly amazing piece...their voices just complimented each other so well... well done to you both.

I could go on.... the support and the harmonies from the chorus were amazing! There were so many quality pieces sung, so many quality voices to be heard... it really was difficult to highlight individuals without doing injustice to others!

With David Palmer (Producer) and Viv Sharp (Artistic Director), the immensely talented Melvin Tay (Musical Director) and the musical accompaniment provided by the Robert Chesters on piano, you just knew you were in safe hands. Be ever so proud ... an outstanding concert from ‘first note to last’.

Thank you so much for inviting my wife and I we truly enjoyed the evening and special thanks to Viv Sharp for her warm welcome and for her hospitality throughout the evening. I’m still no expert, but I’m certainly on the lookout for more operatic productions to attend, not only to review but just to listen to, learn and appreciate.... already looking forward to your next production.