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Review of August 2021 Concert

The first and fourth movements of Haydn’s Symphony No 84 formed the overtures for each half of St Matthew’s August concert.  They were happy choices to introduce thirteen extracts from Mozart operas, concert arias and Solemn Vespers.

Conducted by Andrew Crooks, St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra played with its usual panache and verve.  Crooks recently conducted the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, for the first time, following degrees in Music and German from the University of Otago and post-graduate study in the USA and work in opera houses in Berlin – with the likes of Simon Rattle.  Most recently he has been Head of Music at NZ Opera.  With this pedigree he was an inspired choice to conduct this concert of operatic arias.  The soloists were all extremely talented and polished Classical performance students of the University of Auckland’s Music faculty.

Larissa Kent sang Strider sento la procella from Lucia Silla with confidence and power.  Her mellow lower register was matched with easily reached upper notes.

Alexandra Francis’s lighter voice was ideally suited to Chi vuol godere il mondo from La Finta Giardiniera sung by the coquettish Serpetta.

Andrew Crooks’ harpsichord accompaniment for the recitative opening of Figaro’s aria Bravo signor padrone … Se vuol ballare from Le Nozze di Figaro was an authentic touch.  It was sung by Takerei Komene with great acting aplomb and wonderful Italian enunciation.

The duet Sull’aria from Le Nozze di Figaro sung by Te Ohorere Williams as the Countess and Alexandra Francis as Susanna was received warmly.  They blended their voices well.

Libby Montgomery sang Susanna’s aria, Giunse alfin … Deh vieni, non tardar from Le Nozze di Figaro designed to seduce the Count and tease Figaro.  It was a polished performance, with a lovely bell-like quality to her voice.

The famous trio Soave sia il vento from Cosi fan tutte saw sopranos Sophia Yang and Larissa Kent joined by  baritone Takerei Komene.  Tender and gentle from the women with a hint of mischief from Don Alfonso (Komene). 

Komene was back again, as Don Giovanni at his most beguiling, and Libby Montgomery as the impressionable but vaguely suspicious Zerlina in La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni.

Tenor Sid Chand, as Prince Tamino from Die Zauberflote, was very convincing as the young man in love with the image of the daughter of the Queen of the Night – Dies Bildnis ist bezzaubernd schon.  Great enunciation and emotion.

Sophia Yang as Madame Silberklang in Bester Jungling from Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impressario), produced a lovely clarity in her upper register as she demonstrated the Madame’s many talents.

Maeve Herd sang one of Mozart’s concert arias, Chi sa, chi sa, with confidence in a voice which was strong at both ends of her register.

Joy Lee in Durch Zartlichkeit und Schmeichein from Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail was suitably vehement in her response to Osmin’s attempts at seduction.

The very clear enunciation and powerful polished voice of Hannah Ashford-Beckwas well-suited to the role of Vitellia from La Clemenza di Tito. With a majestic presence she conveyed the tragedy of Vitellia, as she confessed her guilt in Ecco il punto … Non piu di Fiori.

Te Ohorere Williams returned to sing Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de confessore, with the other singers as the chorus.  Here again she demonstrated her admirable breath control and rich vocal line.

A stunning display of vocal talent which is being nourished well – and all the singers were supported with sympathetic accompaniment and conducting.  It was a marvellous concert from singers who will bear watching as they continue their careers.

Review by Rogan Falla