APO at the Opera: Tales of Passion and Betrayal

Live opera!

A full orchestra! 

A live audience! 

The dream that most audiences have had for months, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra made true on Friday night with a return to opera in the form of scenes from operas of passion and betrayal. 

The first half of the event was a mixture of composers, some Bellini (I Puritani, Norma), Roméo et Juliette by Gounod and Puccini’s La bohème. The second half was devoted to Verdi with La Traviata, Otello and Rigoletto featured. 

The performances were charmingly hosted by Simon O’Neill (who was also doing double duty as a performer) and featured a host of brilliant Kiwi singers. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra was fantastic and seemed genuinely excited to be performing again; the orchestra were conducted by Holly Mathieson who conducted with passion (though at several points making the orchestra a little too loud, drowning out the singers).

Most singers had a great selection to sing and they really made the most of it, they acted against each other and made it feel much more like a scene than just a concert performance, it really added something to each performance. All of the singers were brilliant, but for me, tenor Amitai Pati was a revelation: his voice was stunningly strong and joyful and his acting was spot on, particularly his final aria from Roméo et Juliette, the stunningly beautiful, ‘Ah leve-toi, soleil!’.

Anna Leese was a particularly fantastic Desdemona in her Otello scenes, the power, but also the vulnerability that she could present in her voice, made that scene particularly special. Simon O’Neill opposite her as Otello (a role he performed in full several years ago) worked great with her, as well as being the host of the night, which he did charmingly.

Soprano Natasha Wilson wowed the audience with her youthful Juliette and Gilda, her coloratura was stunning, I can’t wait to see her perform more, she has a very bright future ahead!

The encore was the only part that seemed slightly muddled, the singers were split in to two groups of three and I don’t think they knew how far they could push it voice wise which unfortunately meant that you couldn’t really hear too much of them. 

It was a very special night for everyone, the audience were enraptured by being able to see live opera again for the first time in months and that feeling of actually being there live was indescribable; the singers were fantastic as were the orchestra, it was a night to remember, everyone gave it there all, and it showed, it was a celebration of being back, of music, of opera, a wonderful achievement.

Anna Leese and Simon O’Neill

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