Thursday, 18 August 2016

Leaves at KXT

LEAVES is a play by Irish writer, Lucy Caldwell, written in 2007, and it was her debut play, written as part of a residency at the National Theatre Studio .This quietly intense ,melancholy and compelling play grabs us and forces us to listen. With its Irish gift of the blarney it is at times lyrically moving at others quite emotionally tense.
In Caldwell’s play a family is preparing for the return of their eldest daughter, Lori (Harriet Gordon-Anderson), from a recovery clinic after an attempted suicide.  Her parents, David (Simon Lyndon), and Phyllis (Amanda Stephens-Lee) are still trying to get their heads around about what happened. Her two younger siblings, Clover (Bobbie-Jean Henning) and Poppy (Poppy Lynch) each respond to the situation differently and are struggling to find their way in  which they will respond  when she does arrive.The play is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and in the times of its major political unrest (The Troubles) and deals with the after effects and consequences on the psyche of those caught-up in a world at war with itself. The play is not about the actual horrors of specific events in The Troubles but rather as Rachel Chant in her director’s notes in the program says , “this isn’t a play about suicide…” or “…about the bombs or shootings…” but about “our capacity for hope.”
It is also about love and support of family and the power of words and what is left (un)said. The intensity and intricacy of family relationships is explored minutely and passionately. As in many books and movies, a lot happens in the early hours of the morning when people can’t sleep.
LEAVES is finely acted by a strong cast who give beautifully nuanced performances.
Lori, the troubled eldest daughter who we meet at the beginning of the second act, is given a tensely fragile performance by Harriet Gordon-Anderson. Lori, having been shattered by events, demands to know if there is any point in the future and eventually reaches out to hope and a fresh start on life.
As Clover, the middle sister, Bobbie-Jean Henning is delightful and dynamic, caring yet feisty and a touch rebellious. Poppy Lynch as youngest sister Poppy is terrific as a twelve year old, justat that difficult age of just turning adolescent, still childlike and naive in some ways and tired of always being the youngest and smallest and missing out on things.
As the mother Phylis Amanda Stephens- Lee is superb. She is stressed ,concerned and uncertain how to deal with things and determined to keep family together. A show highlight is an extremely moving monologue she delivers about how much she loves her daughters.
Simon Linden as David the father is gruff and taciturn , struggling to put into words what he wants to say and rather lost as to how to deal with what is happening .He is also great on the guitar leading the family in sing a long.
Leaves are scattered everywhere, falling out of books, blown on an Autumn wind, (ashes of fragile yet hopeful memory?!). The set otherwise consists of a large table and several clusters and boxes of assorted books with a hanging set of light globes on one wall.
The soundscape by Nate Edmundson is haunting, and the lighting design by Sian James-Holland wonderfully complements the action.
This was a gripping, compelling production.
Some Company, in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Co, presents LEAVES, by Lucy Caldwell at the Kings Cross Theatre until July 23.
Running time allow 150 minutes including one interval.

Sport for Jove Three Sisters

A most glorious production : My thoughts for the Guide  
While long, this is a tremendous production, more faithful to Chekhov in spirit than recent revivals seen in Sydney. The play features a new translation by Karen Vickery that makes the play seem fresh and relevant. One picks up the plays’ similarities to other Chekhov works in particular The Cherry Orchard.
Director Kevin Jackson and his wonderful cast have caught the Russian melancholy and ennui perfectly. The production is magnificently performed. There is a huge cast  -fourteen of the cast in credited roles and six others as servants/military /singers.- all of whom give fine, inspired performances.
With wonderful designs by Georgia Hopkins the first act sees a cluttered, crowded set of tables overflowing with books, well used worn chairs, rugs, a piano, a niche with an icon all evoking provincial Russia circa 1900. When we move into the second half, and the characters become increasingly unhappy with their lives, the stage space as defined by the rugs is halved; indicating that the action takes place in the smaller, upstairs parlour, and also reflectively surrounding the actors with empty, black space (and ominous fire-lit warmth ). For the final scenes, the carpets are rolled up and the furniture hidden under dust sheets, replaced with white wicker garden furniture, and lush green pot plants, which signify indicate the new beginnings planned. Emma Vine’s costumes are superb as is Martin Kinnane’s lighting design.
The Prozorov sisters and their friends are frozen and trapped by passivity. Full of bored restlessness they enthusiastically spout wondrous passages about the need to work and be busy but do nothing much really. They fail to achieve their hopes and dreams.
There is very little privacy in their crowded house. The three sisters are Irina, Masha and Olga, who we observe over a period of five years. Stuck in provincial Perm, they all desperately want to return to Moscow , yearning to return to a life nostalgically remembered. Yet that life is now a fragile chimera and impossible to recreate so they are doomed to disappointment. As well, the play examines the accepted inequalities of Russian society of that time .Jackson illustrates the gulf between the ruling class and the serfs by the unspoken barrier between the two and the physical marginalization of the servant class as we see how Ferapont (John Grinston ) and Anfisa ( Lyn Pierse ) are treated .
In some ways the characters are perhaps similar to those of Jane Austen’s characters in Bath – with all the military around. The depressed sisters anxiously live for the possibility of escaping their deadly dull lives via the officers – through evening entertainment and talk, marriage, or flirtation – and a vicarious entree into a far worldlier life .It is also interesting to see how especially in Act 1 there are overlapping voices and all the characters are given great definition throughout it is as if one has used a time machine and is eavesdropping …
The three sisters are excellently played by Zoe Jensen ( Irina – blonde, blue eyed and charming), Paige Gardiner ( Masha – the middle sister who is the artist of the family) and Janine Watson (Olga , the eldest sister, a school teacher who eventually becomes headmistress ). The three convincingly portray a very loving, sisterly bond as well as showing their individual qualities.
Their brother Andrey (Tom Campbell) has dreams of becoming a professor in Moscow but his rather unfortunate marriage and heavy debts prevent this. By the end of the play he has disintegrated into a shell like, defeated husk of his former self.
As Natasha, their spiteful, controlling, scheming sister in law (Andrey’s wife ) Lauren Richardson darkly glitters. Pompous , bombastic high school teacher Kulyghin , Masha’s husband , irritatingly spouts Latin and was jovially played by Kenneth Moraleda. His character becomes more and more sympathetic as he becomes aware of as well as accepting of Masha’s infidelity.
Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin , commander of the artillery battery, a thoughtful philosopher who has an affair with Masha was brilliantly played by charismatic Justin Stewart-Cotta . Baron Tuzenbach , in love with Irina , was played by dashingly handsome Graeme McRae . Anti hero and social misfit philosopher Captain Solony, melancholic and OCD afflicted, was captivatingly played by Dorje Swallow.  Noel Hodda gave a fine, sensitive performance as the alcoholic, avuncular Chebutykin, the garrison doctor.
A very compelling and intense production that was poignant, rich and, at times, funny.
Running time allow 3 and a half hours including one interval.
Sport for Jove’s revival of THE THREE SISTERS, directed by Kevin Jackson, is playing at the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre until August 13.

Willoughby Symphony Destiny

My thoughts for the Guide :
The first piece in this wonderful program was Matthew Hindson’s short , shimmering and witty Boom Box (1999) which featured among other things extremely energetic and enthusiastic drum playing and a siren like sound from the glittering strings. It was originally written for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s education concerts.
The main bulk of the first half was the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 47 featuring guest artist Harry Bennetts who has toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as a 2015 Emerging Artist and is currently at the Australian National Academy of Music under Dr Robin Wilson .He has just won a place in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy under a new ANAM International partnership Programme and will begin a two year residency with the orchestra in September. He was introduced by Dr Milton and his impassioned ,elegant playing dazzled and transported .
The first movement opened very softly then Bennetts on his violin sparkled and sang in a dialogue with the emphatic orchestra. In the extended virtuoso cadenza at times the violin darted like a butterfly at others it swirled passionately with gypsy-like rhythms. The orchestra was thunderous , then withdrew for a soft , floating violin passage backed by the pulsating orchestra .In the second movement there were woodwinds and stormy strings and in the third there were an under-layer of strings yet again for Bennett’s fiery violin solo that dazzled.
There was well deserved thunderous applause .
After interval was the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, op. four movements. It was a lush, rich , Romantically flavoured and many layered performance. In the first movement the woodwind state the theme and rich strings take it and develop it and it is passed to various sections of the orchestra. There are some hints of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music especially Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. There is a short oboe solo and a crashing wave of sound at one point.Ominous drums bring the movement to a tense conclusion. The second movement begins with soft , shimmering , yearning strings, there is a horn solo and the orchestra reminds us at one point that Tchaikovsky also wrote the towering 1812 Overture .Pizzicato strings are contrasted with a giant twirling tone and there is a dramatic section similar to the Caraboose leitmotif in Sleeping Beauty.
The third movement begins with waltz-like strings .There is a sense that the Orchestra is tense and nervously tumbling – yet the scurrying strings turn lush and Romantic. There is a military band sound that takes us to the crashing finale of the movement.The fourth and final movement opens with rich strident strings , horns and rolling drums interrupt – blisteringly fast strings cut across them in a tearing hurry. There is another waltz like theme stated , the orchestra goes full throttle and we are breathlessly taken to the fast imposing end with the horns and woodwind. All stylishly played with precision ,clarity and great excitement.
The audience was very delighted.
Running time 2 hours.
Destiny by the Willoughby Symphony was at the Concourse Chatswood 30 & 21 July 2016
Hindson Boom Box (1999)
Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 47
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, op. 64

Wicked at Parramatta

This was magnificent ! My thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide :
Fellow Ozians! Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Riverside Parramatta , stampede the box office and book now if you haven’t already for this wonderful production by Packemin of WICKED. Lovingly , lavishly directed with a sure touch by Neil Gooding , Packemin have outdone themselves in this splendid version . ( Packemin have also previously performed a terrific version of the original The Wizard of OZ ).
Now regarded as a modern classic WICKED by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holman, based on the book by Gregory Maguire , tells the story behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz and what really happened. Who is Elphaba , the ‘Wicked Witch of the West ‘ ? What is Glinda’s real name ? Who were the Tin Man , Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion?It is visually spectacular, with splendiferous ,striking costumes , magical lighting and sets . The stage curtain is a map of OZ and watch out for the dragon above.. Amy Campbell’s choreography is taut and precise , the huge ensemble swirling and moving as one in for example No One Mourns The Wicked . In style it is mostly showbiz/contemporary but there are also ballroom references ( shades of The King and I and other Broadway musicals).Timing and pacing throughout were splendid .At times the script is witty and ironic ( eg the duet for Elphaba and Galinda What is This Feeling ?)
Under Neil Gooding’s fine direction the very strong cast perform tremendously and the Orchestra as led by musical director Peter Hayward sparkled.
As Elphaba Ashleigh O’Brien was superb giving an extremely accomplished , very sympathetic and finely nuanced performance.The odd one out because of her colour she is only trying to do good and help people but with unfortunate results. She is in dazzling form and reveals a great range from the soft , questioning “I’m Not That Girl “ to the show stopping Defying Gravity that takes us to interval which is a mix of exuberant unexpected discovery and menace. In As Long As you Are Mine , her duet with Fiyero with her hair down she is like a mermaid.
Manon Gundersson- Briggs as Nessarose is also tremendous .We see her apparently gentle outward appearance , but discover she is somewhat bitter inside.
Tall ,blonde and handsome dashing Fiyero was marvelously played by Linden Furnell as a careless ,wealthy playboy who ends up questioning his life ( His Dancing Through Life brings the house down).
Glamourous Galinda , consciously decorative , was delightfully played by Mikayla Williams as a possibly somewhat dimwitted blonde bombshell ( or is she ? – think Legally Blonde ).In some sections her role is quite operatic and demanding and Williams handles it magnificently (eg the opening speech and the Evita-like Thank Goodness ).
The Wizard himself was charmingly played by Wayne Scott Kermond who has a most enjoyable time and conquers the audience.In Wonderful Kermond draws on vaudeville styles and has much fun. The scary ,scheming , manipulative side of his character is downplayed rather what is emphasized is his genteel ‘’niceness’’ and how he followed the way created and proposed by others .
Poor Boq, in love with Galinda ,was excellently played by Nicholas Richard.The scheming ,pompous Madame Morrible was delightfully ,vividly played by Monique Lewis Reynolds . As Doctor Dilllamond Jeremey Curtin gave an imposing performance , at first bursting with enthusiasm as a greatly inspiring lecturer then leading to a tragic end.
A glittering prodigious production that had the audience enthralled.
Running time 2 hours 45 minutes including one interval.
WICKED runs at the Riverside until August 13.

Beirut Adrenaline

Strong and intense - great ! here's my review for Sydney Arts Guide  
The intimate space of the tiny downstairs theatre at Belvoir Street has been transformed to become 1986 war time Beirut in this mesmerizing current production. As directed excellently by Anna Jahjah this is BEIRUT ADRENALINE’s Australian premiere as well as being its first production in English.
Set design by Clarisse Ambroselli is a bullet holed scarred wall which also doubles as a projection screen with portable props such as folding chairs, tables, mattresses…The sparse minimal staging allows for fluid scene changes and wonderfully impressive lighting by Larry Kelly.
The play is set in war torn Lebanon in 1986 and we follow the lives of the Daher family , ordinary civilians struggling to survive with constant power water and phone cuts among other things plus the ever present threatening sound of gunfire, sirens and bombs. They are separated by the war. Zyad and his sister Mona manage to escape to Paris, but their brother Marwan is trapped in Beirut. There is a sense of constant stress and pressure.
The play flows between Paris and Beirut with several of the cast – who all give passionately committed performances – playing dual roles. It can perhaps be confusing but the performers work together marvelously. The challenging, informative script is at times extremely intense and searing, whilst at other times it is wistful, dreamlike and romantic.
The play begins with Zyad, an academic, ( Eli Saad) brainstorming aloud about his proposal for a book on the causes of instability in Lebanon as Mona (Sana’a Shaik), his challenging, rebellious younger sister caustically relays a friend’s statement that as a Lebanese she is “a potential terrorist”.
The play then jumps to Beirut we meet Marwan (also played by Saad , with a cap on backwards) who has moved into a flat in Beirut with his Tante Najat (Danielle Dona), who lives mostly in a dream world of a more peaceful elegant past. Marwan tries to keep himself going by jogging, tentatively dreaming of a future in which he will become an elite athlete. His neighbour, beautiful Rima (Neveen Hanna in a mesmerizing performance), envisages her small balcony as an art gallery in which her plans to hold an independent and free art exhibition will come to fruition.
Rima and Marwan, in a delicate scene that is a high point in the productioin, meet in the unconfined no man’s land of the middle space and languorously dance of living in a more graceful, peaceful and romantic future.
Rima manages to send her war-obsessed brother, Toufic (darkly handsome Mansoor Noor who gives a splendid performance as the smooth, suave, Steve McQueen gun obsessed guy from his tense , electric opening entrance) to Paris to survive.  His breakdown is shattering. Ultimately  Zyad is unable to stop spirited Mona from going back to the Lebanon she loves.
Tall, bald Eli Saad is consistently impressive in the dual roles of Zayad and Marwan. In the role of bespectacled lecturer Zayad he has the long closing monologue that takes us back in time over the millennium covering the history of the war torn region. We ask ourselves – how can the country’s leaders make things better? Could things be handled differently?
Alternating between Lebanon and France, between the Orient and the Western world , BEIRUT ADRENALINE is a questioning, quite moving piece of theatre attempting to analyse the various ways we as humans deal with tragedy . While it is set 30 years ago it is extremely relevant and contemporary now. We see how people endure the disintegration and fragmentation of their homeland and struggle to hope for the future.
Theatre Excentrique’s production of BEIRUT ADRENALINE by
Hala Ghosn and Jalie Barcilon with translation by Anna Jahjah and Kris Shalvey runs at Belvoir St Downstairs  until August 14.

Ira Glass

This was amazing   This glorious enchanting show combines two things not usually considered as being able to be blended together – dance and radio shows.
Ira Glass is the host and creator of the public radio program This American Life. Under Glass’s editorial direction, This American Life has won the highest honours for broadcasting and journalistic excellence, including five Peabody awards.
Glass’s show is heard each week by over 2.2 million listeners on more than 500 public radio stations in the United States, Australia and Canada, with another 2.2 million downloading each podcast. A television adaptation of This American Life ran on Showtime for two seasons in 2007 and 2008, winning three Emmys. Glass is one of the producers of Mike Birbiglia’s new film Don’t Think Twice,  and produced and co-wrote Birbiglia’s first film Sleepwalk with Me.
Glass states at the opening of the show that radio shows and dance “have no business” being together on stage,  and yet vaudeville style mix of dance, technology (via Glass’ tablet) and storytelling work splendidly well in this show.
Snappy lighting, blackouts (for the ‘radio show’ segments) and voice-overs are blended with the dance.
The narrative is erudite, powerful, warm, witty, sarcastic and at times very poignant. The performance examines some of the big issues in life; love , marriage advice, teenage awkwardness and death.
There is a theme of loss running throughout the show which deals with disillusion and disappointment but also comes across as being comical and hopeful.
There are also some Sydney /Melbourne wisecracks . Various stories are selected from highlights over almost twenty years of Glass’ show, including memorable cameos from former US poet laureate Donald Hall, philosopher Alain de Botton, and ordinary people such as a boy nervously waiting outside his school dance.
The performance also includes a  meditation on a dancer’s life and the daily grind of being in a long running show (there are plenty of Riverdance references in Act 1) and how short a dancer’s performing career can be particularly given the long years of training required.
Both dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass are interviewed separately by Glass. The two dancers give sleek, polished performances . Mostly they perform in unison, precisely synchronized whilst Glass comments on their dancing from the sidelines.
Dance styles ranged from vaudeville, contemporary dance , musical/showbiz , baton twirling , and there were even hints of Tharp, Kylian ,Bausch and de Keersmaeker.
One major highlight was the heartbreaking table top duet linked into a poet mourning the death of his wife, with one life departing, whilst another life stays behind facing the loss.
At one time the show asks what makes dancers dance, and furthermore what is it about dance that makes dancers happy?!
As the title says the show is divided into three ‘’ acts’’ . The concert hall was reconfigured, black curtains transforming it into a more ‘traditional ‘theatre space and masking the choir stalls . A miniature vaudeville stage curtain glows in the middle of the stage, there are several simple costume changes- the costumes were mostly in neutral colours or black and white, slick suits and/or plain lines of skirts and tops for the dancers. Bright washes of light and bursts of confetti created the visual colour.
The show did indeed ‘ end with a bang’ , on a bright , hopeful note with the audience cheering ecstatically .
IRA GLASS THREE ACTS, TWO DANCERS, ONE RADIO HOST played at the Sydney Opera House on July 17 and 18.
The three year  tour was originally planned to end in Sydney but has now been extended to London.

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Blazing Baroque

A glorious concert  .. here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide  
Under the dynamic, bouncy direction of Paul Dyer the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra was in magnificent form and sizzled in this electrifying concert.
The Orchestra played with a warm , elegant tone on their period instruments and there was great rapport between Dyer, featured violin soloist Shaun Lee-Chen and the Orchestra. (Lee-Chen is currently concert master for the Orchestra.) Considered avant-garde in their time, Fasch , Sammartini, Telemann, and Vivaldi created some glorious instrumental music. This is a fabulous chance to hear unusual combinations of instruments in magnificent Baroque concertos played with great flair.
The concert opened briskly (presto) with the Sammartini Overture to the opera Memet J-C88.The adante was slower, more delicate and reflective, with haunting layers of strings and a pulsating undertone. The concluding presto ma nontanto heard a return to the energetic speediness.
A major part of the first half was the Vivaldi Concerto for violin in D Major ‘Grosso Mogul’ RV208 which began with strident strings. Rather oddly, dark , heavily bearded soloist Lee-Chen walked in after the first section of the Allegro to begin playing and shot fireworks into the audience with his blisteringly fast playing of the fiendishly difficult solos.The Orchestra breathed and pulsated as one and Lee- Chen interrupted the polite musical conversation and took over dominating the conversation in between musical flurries and skirmishes. The Recitativo: Grave began as a conversation between Dyer on keyboard and Lee-Chen, the violin singing languorously in a soulful delicate and passionate duet, that develops into a full discussion with the orchestra. The third movement another Allegro featured another extremely difficult and blisteringly fast solo for Lee Chen, the violin almost birdlike with its astonishing swoops and swirls.(The audience went crazy at the end ).
To take us through to interval we heard the enchanting, regal Telemann Grand Concerto in d Major TWVdeest , a suite in six short movements, which had a strong martial opening and a firm tone. Much was made of the Baroque horns in this work ( played by Doree Dixon and Darryl Poulssen ) which were sprightly .Lyrical slow sections were contrasted with bright faster sections .It was somewhat circular with repeats at times all hurrying towards the vigorous finale.
The second half began with a most exciting Vivaldi Concerto for Several Instruments in F Major RV 569 in three movements.This time the horn players were centre front as were the recorder players . It opened with a galloping Allegro, Lee-Chen on the violin was luminous and dazzling effortlessly leading the extraordinary playing .The second Grave movement was far slower, with the violin sobbing a passionate lament. In the second Allegro movement the horns were fast and brisk, the violin having a dragonfly like darting solo and leading the orchestral conversation.
Then we heard the exquisite Telemann Concerto for flute and recorder in E Minor TWV 52:e1. The opening largo was delicately ,lushly ,lyrical with the strings passionately pulsating . The birdlike recorder and flute (Mikaela Oberg and Melissa Farrow) were soaring and darting .With Dyer on keyboard there was an enchanting trio that developed to a refined ,crystal clear duet with pizzicato accompaniment. The final Presto movement heard swirling strings and the flute and recorder bubble and cascade.
Last on the program was the Fasch Concerto in D major FWV L:D4a in three movements. The Allegro had a Handel like opening and Lee-Chen was lyrically soaring on the violin. The lyrical Adante was slower, the violin stating the melody which was then taken and developed by the orchestra and featuring another vibrant dazzling solo for Lee -Chen. The Allegro brought the concert to a dynamic conclusion and the audience was extremely enthusiastic.
Running time allow roughly two hours including interval.
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s concert BLAZING BAROQUE is playing the City Recital Hall until August 6 and then tours to Brisbane and Melbourne.
Concert Program
Sammartini Overture to the opera Memet, J-C 88
Vivaldi Concerto for violin in D major, Grosso mogul RV 208
Telemann Grand Concerto in D major, TWV deest
Vivaldi Concerto for several instruments in F major, RV 569
Telemann Concerto for flute & recorder in E minor, TWV 52:e1
Fasch Concerto in D major, FWV L:D4a

while I recover

I had another major operation last week , have just been discharged from hospital and am taking it very quietly .It might be a few more weeks before I start running around seeing shows etc again will see how I am

Roberto Alagna  A great fun night
Here's what I said for artshub
Fresh from his recent triumphant season at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Frenchman, Roberto Alagna – regarded as one of the world’s greatest tenors – is touring Australia for the first time.
Considered by many to be the successor to Luciano Pavarotti, Alagna has surpassed all his contemporaries as a ‘crossover’ artist: a magnificent lyrical tenor who can perform not only opera’s most romantic arias but also much loved pop songs. His voice is smooth, rich and glowing in tone and crossover albums have sold millions worldwide, with covers of hits recorded by Tony Bennett, Elvis and Dean Martin alongside Neapolitan street classics and romantic ballads such as O’ Sole Mio, Torna a Surriento and Just Say I Love Her.
For one night only Sydney was privileged to host this opera sensation now crowned ‘The King of the Met’ and the Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House was packed for the occasion.
Alagna is totally charming and charismatic and had a lot of the ladies in the audience swooning. Overall there was a quite relaxed feel to the show. He was in glorious, mellifluous voice and we heard a range of songs showcasing his versatility – they varied from passionate, melancholy and reflective (e.g. Passione) to bubbly and joyous. Alagna himself ranged from lushly lyrical to ringing and commanding. He was obviously having a lot of fun and by the end of the show had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Alagna’s glamourous guest star, the elegant Siobghann Stagg – an Australian lyric soprano currently performing to much acclaim in Europe – was in fine form too, exquisitely and delicately moving in O Mio Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi for example, and having great fun in the enchanting duets Funiculi Funicula and O Sole Mio.
The orchestra under the dynamic baton of Stefano Miceli played magnificently with a warm, sparkling tone. The spine-tingling overture to Verdi’s La Forza del Destino gave the audience goosebumps. There was also a very dramatic rendition of the overture to Nabucco and an enchanting and thrilling performance of the overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The Act III Intermezzo to Puccini's Manon Lescaut  was lyrical and sweepingly romantic.
It was interesting and refreshing to note that there were no ‘opera’s greatest hits’ selections – no Nessun Dorma or the Brindisi duet from La Traviata.
Though, it would have been helpful to have surtitles with translation and also a screen giving the title of each song particularly as they were not performed in the order given in the program. And while the lighting, consisting of washes of colour was most effective, I found the hanging rod multi-coloured effects overdone and distracting.
At the end of the performance there was a rapturous standing ovation. The audience would not let them go – Alagna and Stagg were required to do three encores and the audience were screaming for more.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Roberto Alagna in Concert

With Siobhan Stagg and the Australian Sinfonietta Sydney Opera House
21 July 2016

Additional performances:
Arts Centre Melbourne 27 July 2016
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre 30 July 2016​