Virtuoso sopranos can be like buses in Goa: you wait for ages for one to come along, and suddenly three of them appear all at once!
The concert was billed as “The Stunning Stratospheric Sopranos”, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Three Tenors phenomenon, which took the world by storm at the 1990 World Cup in Rome. And they didn’t disappoint in either the Stunning or the Stratospheric department.
The programme was thoughtfully laid out, to span the gamut of the operatic repertory, from Händel to Gluck, Mozart, Gounod, Delibes, Johann Strauss II, Bizet, Dvořák, Massenet, and Puccini, through to modern-day British composer Jonathan Dove. It had mushy lovelorn soliloquies, studies in flirtation, joie de vivre, fire-and-brimstone wrath, coloratura pyrotechnics, heartmeltingly beautiful duets: in short everything that a soprano’s handbag of tricks or indeed opera itself could possibly contain.
The curtain rose with two arias from Händel’s ‘heroic’ operas (Alessandro, and Cleopatra). While Susanna Hurrell’s opening aria (Brilla nell’Alma) was a dazzling display of technical wizardry, Joanne D’Mello’s aria that followed was delivered with a silky smooth vocal line, as she (Cleopatra) “lamented her fate”, shorn of her queendom and possibly her love, in one cruel blow.
The duet Canzonetta sull’Aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was made famous in the film Shawshank Redemption. As Patricia Rozario and Joanne D’Mello sang it, one was reminded of the words of Morgan Freeman’s character from the film: “I’d like to think that they were singing about something so beautiful it cannot be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you those voices soared higher and further than anybody dares to dream”.
Word-count constraints do not permit one to do justice to the whole programme, and it is difficult to cherrypick highlights for particular mention in such a top-drawer performance. But certainly Rozario was the Queen of the Night in more ways than one in Die Hölle Rache from Mozart’s Magic Flute, with its staggering succession of near-impossible high notes and overall technique that had you on the edge of your seat. Another absolute showstopper was her “It’s MY wedding”, from Dove’s “Enchanted Pig”, with its brilliantly clever marriage of witty lyrics and fast-paced, taut scoring. Her Song to the Moon from Dvořák’s Rusalka amply showed off her beauty of tone.
The Flower duet from Delibes’ Lakmé gained international fame after British Airways appropriated it as their signature tune. Hurrell and D’Mello (as Lakmé and Malika) were in full flower as their voices blended like the jasmine and rose in their lyrics.
Hurrell’s taunt of the Marquis in the high-spirited Laughing Song from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus was another high point, with its very skilfully translated English lyrics that preserved all the irrepressible Viennese gaiety from its original setting. Hurrell’s command of technique is quite phenomenal. Here’s hoping we will hear her again in Goa very soon.
Ah, Joanne D’Mello! Every single time she returns to the Goan stage, she sounds even better than before. Her voice has a unique tonal quality; this was evident from the beginning. But this is now coupled with ever-growing maturity and insight into everything she sings, and one cannot help but feel that great things are in store for her.
And a word must be said for the unflappable Mark Troop, who worked like a trooper at the piano right through, far more than mere accompanist but rather a partner of high artistry and sensitivity.
Troop’s arrangement of the dulpod “Hanv saiba poltoddi vetam” for three voices and piano was a fitting encore as it ferried the audience gently across, after a truly magical evening by the Mandovi riverbank.
(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 6 January 2012)