Thursday, April 13, 2017


American Rhapsodies - A Night Of Parlour Opera
Wesley Music Centre, Forrest to April 9

Reviewed by Len Power 8 April 2017 Matinee performance

A program of works by three very different 20th century American composers, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti and George Gershwin was a tantalising prospect.  The performers, Kenneth Goodge, tenor, Louise Keast, soprano, Veronica Thwaites-Brown, mezzo-soprano, David Smyth, baritone and Emily Leong, piano, presented two short operas, an excerpt from a longer one and one of Gershwin’s most famous works, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.

The program commenced with Samuel Barber’s short opera, ‘A Hand of Bridge’, which had a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti.  Essentially an evening of card playing by two unhappily married couples, the opera shows the dark thoughts of the people at the table.  Each singer produced nicely developed characterisations and sang their roles well.

Pianist, Emily Leong, played ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ by George Gershwin in the composer’s arrangement for solo piano.  Leong captured the driving rhythms of the piece very well and showed great sensitivity in the more reflective moments in the score.

Veronica Thwaites-Brown sang ‘Lullaby’ from Act Two of Menotti’s opera, ‘The Consul’.  A plaintive song by a woman to her babe in arms, Thwaites-Brown gave a heart-felt and believable performance and sang beautifully.

The final work, Menotti’s ‘The Telephone’ was a particularly good showcase for Louise Keast as the dizzy young woman who is more interested in conversing on the telephone than allowing her ardent lover to propose to her.  A very funny work, both Keast and David Smyth gave good performances character-wise and were especially effective when singing the duets.

A lot of thought has gone into this presentation with a setting suggesting rooms in a typical American apartment block.  This hour long program of accessible and entertaining works was most enjoyable and nicely done.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition on 9 April.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program (9am Saturdays) and ‘Dress Circle’ (3.30pm Mondays).