Friday, November 7, 2014


Presented by: Carl Rafferty and the cast of “Opera by Candlelight”

 Albert Hall – Canberra

 31st October 2014.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens


Canberra entrepreneur, Carl Rafferty, has built up a loyal following for his “Opera by Candlelight” programs which he presents regularly in the Albert Hall. Aimed squarely at Andre Rieu aficionados, these excellently staged concerts are usually presented in a banquet setting. Guests are encouraged to dress glamorously and bring along their own supper to enjoy at tables set with white tablecloths and shimmering candelabra.
Carl Rafferty
The programs generally consist of selections from popular operas, sung by immaculately dressed rising young opera singers, accompanied by an excellent small orchestra lead with considerable chutzpah by Carl Rafferty himself from a grand piano.

 “Gypsy Fire” varied from this format in as much as only one of the three performances was presented in banquet style. The other two were given with theatre style setting, accompanied by a generous champagne supper, which was included in the ticket price.

 It also varied in that it was mainly a showcase for stunning Romanian violinist, Rusanda Panfili, who was giving her first performances in Australia, and for Rafferty’s soprano daughter, Kate, who is presently studying in Vienna. The chorus and orchestra were still present, but for this concert, the sixteen-voice chorus were mainly confined to providing glamorous mobile scenery, and a couple of rousing, if under-rehearsed, opera choruses.

Rusanda Panfili 
 Rusanda Panfili set the “Gypsy Fire” theme early, opening the program with a thrilling performance of Iguudesman’s “Flamenco Fantasy” complete with foot-stamping, flirtatious glances and showy bowing flourishes. Every bit as glamorous as her photographs, with a virtuosic violin technique and confident stage presence she had the audience in the palm of her hand for the rest of the evening. A generous performer she offered a succession of the exciting solos including a dazzling “Hora Staccato”, a lovely version of Shostakovich’s “Romance” from “The Gadfly”, and a virtuosic performance of the inevitable Monti “Czardas”. She happily dueted with Kate Rafferty, joined violinist, Liam Kenneally, for an excellent account of the Shostakovich “Spanish Dance”, and occasionally added her considerable strength to the orchestra for some arrangements.  

Kate Rafferty
Kate Rafferty’s study in Vienna has certainly been well-spent. She impressed with a generous program of coloratura showpieces among them terrific arrangements of seldom heard vocal bon-bons including Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz Serenade” and Lincke’s “Glow Worm Gavotte”  which gave her the opportunity to show off some spectacularly stratospheric cadenza’s.  She also performed Verdi’s “Caro Nome”, Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” and lovely arrangement of Lehar’s “Vilia” for which she was joined by the chorus and orchestra. Her sister Anna was also contributed two Noel Coward songs “Matelot” and “Nina”.

 Rafferty has already announced three more presentations for 2015. “Opera by Candlelight” in February 2015, “Tenorissimo” in May 2015 and “Mozartmania” in October 2015. If you’ve not already experienced one of these events, they’re worth watching out for.