Albert Hall, Canberra, Feb 7th, 8th and 9th.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens.
There’s something very special about sitting in the historic Albert Hall at dusk on a balmy summer evening, at a table bedecked with a crisp white tablecloth in the flickering candlelight from a silver candelabra, listening to an impressive program of well-chosen light classical music presented by a company of handsome young emerging opera singers and musicians assembled from around Australia and indeed, the world.
“Opera by Candlelight” is a concept perfected by enterprising local entrepreneur, Carl Rafferty, which invites audiences to attend a banquet performance, for which they are asked to bring their own food and wine, and to dress as extravagantly as they please.
Guests are seated in plush red chairs, at tables of 8 or 10, (various other configurations are available), which have been pre-set with white tablecloths and electronic candles mounted in elegant silver candelabra. On the stage, which is pre-set with a huge central motif, tasteful red and black drapes and more huge ornate candelabra, are a variety of keyboards and percussion. The effect, blended with the historic architectural details of the Albert Hall, create a feeling of elegant opulence, and the perfect environment for the concert to come.
Guests arrived at 5.30pm to banquet until 7.00pm when the entertainment began with a spirited trumpet fanfare from Zach Raffan, following which the entire cast, immaculately groomed, the women in flowing evening dresses, the men in dinner suits, took the stage to sing Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”.
An eclectic and generous selection of solos, duets and choruses, as well as the occasional parlour song, or instrumental item, , followed throughout the evening, all accompanied by an impressive quintet of young musicians and lead by Carl Rafferty himself, either on piano or spinet, interrupted only by an extended interval to allow the audiences to enjoy sweets and coffee.
The standard of the singing was impressively high, if rather variable, among the soloists. Polish soprano, Aleksandra Wiwala enchanted with several solos throughout the evening, including an aria from Massenet’s “Menon” and another from Lehar’s “Guiditta”. At one point she joined Kate Rafferty, to sing the lovely duet from “Lakme”.
Coloratura soprano, Kate Rafferty, who has continued her vocal studies overseas since her last Canberra appearances, dazzled the audience with several demanding solos, including “Let the Bright Seraphim” for which she was joined by trumpeter, Zach Raffan.
Other notable highlights included a fine rendition of “The Donkey Serenade” by James Adams, Shane Treeves spirited performance of “Goodbye” from “The White Horse Inn”, a delightfully polished interpretation” from Karoline Rose O’Sullivan of Strauss’s amusing “Tipsy Song”. Guest Artist, Canberra School of Music supremo, Peter Tregear, contribute a stirring aria from Beethoven’s “Fidelio”.
The staging of each of the items was simple and visually appealing, and the contribution of the small instrumental ensemble lead by Carl Rafferty from the piano, and consisting of Thomas Azoury (clarinet), Zach Raffan (trumpet), Liam Kenneally (violin) Warwich Dunham (organ), Morgan Merrell (percussion) was integral to the success of the evening, sprinkling the vocal items with instrumental highlights throughout.
Over several years Rafferty has been steadily building a loyal audience for these Albert Hall extravaganza’s, and as well as the Canberra performances, will also presents these programs in the Mosman Art Gallery on February 15th and 16th. Full details of these and forthcoming performances can be found on his website: www.operabycandlelight.net