Thursday, 4 November 2010


Esplanade Concert Hall
Tuesday (2 November 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 4 November 2010.

While this year’s edition of the Singapore Sun Festival lacked the draw of a big name foreign orchestra, it was made up by an opera gala showcasing no less than the golden voice of José Carreras. This one-third of the fabled Three Tenors (which included Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti) has made the most appearances in Singapore, the last in 2005 helming the 100th anniversary celebrations of Victoria Concert Hall.

The Catalan legend, greying and into his 60s, retained that vital spark of youth and vitality which came out strongly in his song selections. Singing mostly non-operatic repertoire in Italian, he operated well within his comfort zone. There was never a hint of strain as he reached for the higher registers, and every climax came across with ringing resonance.

In Pieta Signore, attributed to Stradella, his vocal control was admirable, infusing this prayer of contrition with a true depth of feeling. Turning back the clock for Pasquale Costa’s Era De Maggio (It Was May), he convincingly conveyed the ardent flush of young love in the Neapolitan spring. Almost effortless in Paolo Tosti’s romantic L’Ultima Canzone (The Last Song), the elusive quality of sincerity shone through without sounding glib.

The only non-Italian song was Josep Ribas’ zarzuela hit Roso, in Catalonian, which brought out that glowing largesse of personality that separates greatness from plain proficiency. Back in Italian, the range of emotions invested in Furio Rendine’s Vurria and Stanislao Gastaldon’s Musica Proibita (Forbidden Music) ensured his listeners got his every ounce of passione which mere words cannot describe.

Speranza, Lewis & Olmi

Some might have wished that Carreras had sung more than eight numbers, but the two-and-a-half-hour concert was well padded with bel canto arias by Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi featuring soprano Ivanna Speranza and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Lewis. Both gave very impressive showings, the former in an amazon-like range packed within a small frame, and the latter for her mellowness and maturity.

Not to be forgotten was the excellent Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Paolo Olmi, in its maiden outing accompanying opera. Its discipline, attention to detail and immaculate execution of four demanding operatic overtures was very encouraging.

Four encores, ending with all three singers re-enacting the Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata, brought the full-house audience to its feet. Such a musical treat deserved nothing less.

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