The Ringtone Cycle (Graeme Koehne)
Seraphim Trio and Lisa Harper-Brown
14 May 2012
A one-woman opera. A solo Brunnhilde? Well, no. More an opera for Brunnhilde and piano trio on a one-hour marathon. But a marathon where everybody galloped over the line with undiminished energy and style.
The parts, of which this opera was more than the sum, were all critical. No passengers here.
Peter Goldsworthy’s libretto: witty and spiced with the pathos of a lonely woman finding only sleeze in internet dating and, not even being able to settle for the least imperfect guy, finding solace only in Mum’s teapot. Here is the frustrating futility of the search for virtual sex or friendship that can only ever yield virtual satisfaction. So underneath the frenetic energy is a carpet of sadness.
Graeme Koehne’s score: alternately exuberant and desperate but always clever and sharp. This was a score that always – every note – painted a sort of soundscape of Brunnhilde’s emotions: a roller-coater ride of anticipation, hope, frustration, anger and sadness. It's all there in the music.
Seraphim Trio: working damn hard in a complex score that required fast, furious and accurate playing. Trio playing is only for born accompanists. You no listen to each other you bugger it up. In The Ringtone Cycle it was also listen to Brunnhilde. In this respect the Trio was faultless. They always knew where she was going. There always arrived with her, never panting, bring up the rear. The performance was a genuine quartet for soprano and trio.
The “charismatic soprano” Lisa Harper-Brown: inelegant in grey trackie dacks, busy getting outside of a bottle of cheap red and at the mercy of that now so uncool Nokia ringtone singing – and acting – for a full hour. Perfectly placed high notes (no tension here) and no growling chest voice. A lyric soprano. Wikkidefinition: “... a type of operatic soprano that has a warm quality with a bright, full timbre ...” Exactly! We heard a rich, controlled, very expert voice and it was beautiful.
The event was a fund-raiser for Seraphim’s very valuable commissioning program. Even without Mrs. Ayres canapés and Cope-Williams bubbles and Coriole’s wine the fifty buck tickets were a steal.
The only disturbing part of the night was that the same day Nicky Winmar’s famous jumper was passed in at $95k, two Koehne page one scores only fetched $200 each.