Review of Gala Concert July 2019

Sparkle Aplenty in Gala Concert

The Gala Concert from SMCO on Sunday 28 July was truly a stunning event, played to a near capacity audience.  It incorporated sparkling overtures to begin each half of the concert and brilliant arias for solo and ensemble singers of the Music Faculty of the University of Auckland to complete the programme.

The orchestra was led by Simon Ansell and conducted with panache and great rapport with singers and players by Michael Joel.

The first half of the concert was an almost all-Mozart one and opened with the Overture to Cosi fan Tutte. The slow introduction played sensitively by the woodwinds led into a Presto played with great verve and precision by the strings seeming to revel in the energetic runs and the woodwinds in the tossing of tunes between themselves and the strings.  Joel’s brisk beat kept the whole thing moving with sparkle.

Students they may be, but the eighteen young university singers performing extracts from Giulio Cesare of Handel and The Marriage of Figaro were nothing but professional in style – their breath control, phrasing, ability to sing pianissimo as well as with full voice, enunciation, acting ability, and musicality were there in abundance.

Carla Camilleri as Cleopatra both looked and sounded regal.  Cleopatra’s grief and passion after being ordered to prison by her brother were most sensitively portrayed.

In arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Emily Young as Susanna, Sam Downes as the Count, Te Ohorere Williams as the Countess and Libby Montgomery as Cherubino displayed maturity, emotional empathy with their roles and impressive vocal talent. Matiu Kereama, Arthur Adams-Close, Maeve Herd and Sid Chand joined the original four in a rousing Finale to Act 2.

Played with pizzazz and enthusiasm, Franz von Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture introduced the second part.  Here the brass were able to ‘go to town’ while blending their tone very well with the woodwinds.

The vocal items in this half began with selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.  Here as in the Mozart arias the singers fully embraced their roles, and Chris McRae, Carla Camilleri, Alex Matangi, Alexandra Francis, Sid Chand and Hannah Ashford-Beck sang songs from South Pacific, Oklahoma, Carousel and the Sound of Music with polished grace which made them sound fresh and alive. 

Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus must be one of the most engaging operettas, and the soloists brought out all the effervescence of the music.  With forged letters, practical jokes and a maid dressed in her mistress’s clothes and the mistress dressed as a Hungarian countess there is plenty of opportunity for mayhem and madness.  Emily Briggs, Sophia Yang, Carla Camilleri and Larissa Kent entered into the comic plot with gusto and great dash.  Their acting ability matched their vocal brilliance and brought an enthusiastic reception from the audience.  The Champagne Chorus where the whole group joined the soloists saw quaffing of bubbly and singers dancing in the aisles as they sang.  A spectacular ending to a thoroughly enjoyable concert.

Review by Rogan Falla