A public love affair with opera was on display last evening as maestro Boris Brott expertly seduced the audience with a selection of stellar romantic works in Opera Romance. The evening opened with the National Academy Orchestra’s interpretation of the overture from Rossini’s ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’, deftly conducted by the NAO’s current RBC Foundation apprentice-conductor Philippe Ménard. Ménard’s expressive conducting and evident joy in the music infused the opening piece with the evening’s theme – passion. Mezzo Lauren Segal then graced the stage as Rosina from ‘Barbiere’.
What drama! In his first aria, ‘Un di all’azzurro spazio’ from Giordano’s “Andrea Chénier”; Mauro’s entire body seemed to embrace the music. His tour de force, however, was ‘Vesti la giubba’ from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Mauro’s acting was unquestionably superb & breathtaking… it was a master class in opera. Watching Mauro’s emotionally wounded Pagliacci was an incredibly heart-wrenching experience. As he stumbled, we stumbled; as he fell apart, we too, fell apart. The audience leaped to its feet to give Mauro a merited standing ovation for a formidable performance.
Another guest conductor, Martin MacDonald, made a brief but memorable appearance conducting an energetic and electrifying Bacchanale from Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Samson et Dalila”. It was another audience favourite.
Silky-voiced Irish-Canadian soprano; Sinéad Sugrue, was magnificent. A standout performance of the evening was her rendition of ‘Sempre libera’ from “La Traviata”. Sugrue possesses a stunning vocal instrument with great emotional and dynamic range. She displayed such facility in singing such a complex vocal piece and it was truly masterful. Baritone Peter McGillivray seemed to relish both the music and the roles he played as well. In a duet with Segal (‘J’ai gravi la montagne’ from “Samson et Dalila”), he was particularly contemptible & snide as the High Priest of Dagon, conveying the essence of the character through his acting as well as his voice. His mellifluous tones and powerful vocal chords filled the room. McGillivray had an opportunity to shine in his aria ‘Di provenza il mar’ from “Traviata”. He sang it beautifully; tenderly, and with lovely sensitivity.
A touching moment- one that captures the mood of the evening; occurred during Mauro’s final aria, ‘Torna a Surriento’ by Ernesto De Curtis. Maestro Brott had earlier mentioned that the tenor was battling a vocal problem due to rehearsing for several days in the air-conditioned hall and was soldiering on nevertheless. By this time in the concert, Mauro had, unfortunately, lost his voice. He valiantly tried to sing his opening words but little came out. What happened next was beautiful. The audience took over. It was the audience’s way of supporting an admired tenor who had won their hearts. It was a show of compassion and passion – not just for Mauro but for opera itself. The warmth filled the room. Indeed, this installment of the Brott Music Festival, Opera Romance, was a romance in itself. More than that, it was a love affair!