Sunday, April 02, 2023 | Ramadan 10, 1444 H
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lunch recital brings singers up close at Opera Galleria


The Royal Opera House Muscat has joined forces with Opera Galleria to offer free lunchtime recitals for members of the public who have perhaps never entered the main ROHM auditorium. On Saturday December 16 shoppers were treated to a taste of the concert, “Homage to Luciano Pavarotti”, given by four young singers from the Foundation which Pavarotti’s widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, set up after his death. The aim of the Academy in Modena, Italy, is to keep the Maestro’s name and humanitarian efforts alive, and to support talented emerging artists, keen to enter the opera world.

So, fresh from their subsidiary position in Thursday night’s Gala performance, this quartet took centre stage in the lobby and offered a culinary delight with dazzling effect to entertain people as they ate or passed by.

The entree was served by 28-year-old Italian baritone, Daniele Terenzi, in the form of the jovial Dulcamara’s Aria buffa from Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”, ‘Udite o Rustici’ cajoling the peasants to listen and learn from one who probably knows even less than them. Pianist and vocal coach with the company, Paolo Andreoli, was complicit in the conspiracy, and whispered prompts between playing from his considerable piano score. The effect was hilarious, and had shoppers stopping in their tracks to see what all the laughter was about. But more surprises were to come. Down the escalator glided 26-year-old Brazilian mezzo-soprano, Ana Victoria Pitts, with her ‘Habanera’ from Bizet’s “Carmen” which she had performed on Thursday. But what a transformation; now she was coquettish, flirting with the audience lucky enough to be seated and utterly convincing as a seductive gypsy from the cigarette factory. Ana Victoria had been to Muscat in 2016 with Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and will be back again, no doubt.

The remaining pair made a spectacular appearance in a delicious taster from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” — and how well suited they were! 24-year-old Peruvian tenor, Ivan Ayon Rivas, had already wowed the Muscat audience on Thursday night with Verdi’s ‘La Donna e’ Mobile’, and now we had another opportunity to hear him at close proximity. He made people sit up and take notice with his perfect impersonation of Mozart’s philanderer, a more convincing Don Juan you could not wish for.

And what an amazing voice it was in ‘La ci Darem la Mano’ in that intimate, pop-up theatre. He was partnered by Italian soprano, Claudia Sasso, who had not had a solo opportunity on Thursday, but here she shone as a demure and delightful Zerlina. She has a beautiful, lyrical voice with an agile and clear, controlled ‘bel canto’ style. What was so arresting in Saturday’s informal presentation was their fluid movement between the seats, singing to individual audience members — and then disappearing up the conveniently sited escalator to dramatic effect!

The main course allowed Claudia Sasso to soar to the top of her range in ‘Si, mi Chiamano Mimi’ from Puccini’s “La Boheme” after Rivas’ brilliant seduction in Rodolfo’s, ‘Che Gelida Manini’ (your little hand is frozen) — a role played often by Luciano Pavarotti himself. The two fall hopelessly in love and their duet, ‘O Soave Fanciulla’ was as sublime as it was poignant.

In much brighter vein came the masterful Quartet, ‘Bella Figlia dell’Amore’ (beautiful daughter of love) from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, with gestures and winks between the four, lightening the mood in true Finale Form.

Italian baritone, Daniele Terenzi showed his darker, reflective side in that 1932 Classic, ‘Granada’ by Mexican composer, Augustin Lara, made famous by Pavarotti. Here Terenzi shone in the popular standard, and it was evident what a rich, warm voice he owns, with a wide register and range of colour. On Thursday night Francesco Meli gave a sterling, robust performance of Leoncavallo’s 1904 Neapolitan song, ‘Mattinata’ (morning song) and now Rivas had the opportunity to strut his stuff in the same concert favourite. It was powerful and passionate, a perfect party piece. Followed by the Neapolitan Ernesto de Curtis’ 1935, ‘Non ti Scordar di Me, (Don’t forget me), the banquet was concluding with coffee and cake in the form of two Quartet Finales. It was delightful to hear — and see — the young opera stars perform that lively rhythmic chestnut, ‘Libiamo ne’ Lieti Calici’ from Verdi’s “La Traviata” which had been the encore number in the Homage concert. They chose the much loved, “O Sole Mio” for their encore; a Neapolitan sweet course to be savoured for many a month. Luciano Pavarotti came from Modena in Northern Italy, and all the songs in this recital were popular Pavarotti pieces. That he included so many songs from Naples in his vast repertoire is a tribute to the wealth and musicality of that city’s folk-song tradition.

The next Lunch Music at Opera Galleria will be on Saturday January 13 at 12.30 pm with members of the cast from Bellini’s “La Sonnambula”, and it just might be wise to arrive early to get a seat to watch the Opera Stars of the future.

Georgina Benison

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