27 February 2016

Victorian Opera: Voyage to the moon

Victorian Opera
Voyage to the moon
Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
19 February 2016
then Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide

Spectacular range – low tenor to mid-bass with no head to chest voice break. Low notes retain their clarity with no growl. Rapid vibrato that suits baroque singing. He makes the hideously difficult rapid runs seem effortless (Difficult? Where?). Mostly, though, it’s the rich beauty of his voice that is captivating.

Jeremy Kleeman as Magus

Towards the end of 2013 Lisa Gasteen finished a week of intensive teaching with the eight Vic Opera/MU Master of Music course students. She ripped into young Mr Kleeman (in the most gentle of ways, of course). His body language suggested he was not amused. She wouldn’t have bothered if she knew he wasn’t worth it. We could hear his wort then. Doubtless she could.

I next heard him singing The Pudding – the Magic variety – in a bowler hat. Then in an interminable Handel Opera – part of Brisbane Baroque. He was good and very good, then. But in The Moon he was superb.

I have a vested interest in the Master of Music course that was part of; we support it. I’m very glad we do because it produced – it keeps on producing voices of the quality of Jeremy’s. His parents are partly to blame. They give him that wonderful collection of genes that are the foundation of a brilliant singer. And his incredible hard work and intelligent approach to singing is doing the rest.

Of course Christina Smith’s stunning costume helped – a lot: a full length black and gold brocade coat that was purpose-built for his long, lean frame. Matt Scott/Peter Darby’s wonderful lighting measured the mood and responded. But (I have to have a grump) I would have liked surtitles.

And it was right, very right, that the longest individual ‘aria’ applause was given to Phoebe Briggs’ seven-piece ensemble. These super-talented musicians gave us the great gift of superb music-making.

Rachael Beesley, ZoĆ« Black,Simon Oswell, Phoebe Briggs, Molly Kadarcauch, Kirsty McCahon, Emma Black

We’ve come to expect perfection from Sally-Anne Russell – her Gluck aria with Emma Black  was riveting – and Emma Matthews. They seemed completely at home with the Alan Curtis/Calvin Bowman pastiche. If nothing else the score demonstrates the incredible depth of opera-music talent in this country.

Sally-Anne Russell, Jeremy Kleeman, Emma Matthews, Pheobe Briggs behind the harspichord, Kristy McCahon behind the double bass.

Voyage was so right. If anyone doubts that Richard Mills and Vic Opera can’t (still) mount a world-class opera they weren’t there.

Now … I’m off to break open the piggy bank. There’s a fresh crop of young singers for VO to mentor.

The History of Emotions is conducting a major research project on Vic Opera's Voyage to the Moon.
The Voyage to the Moon researchers are Jane Davidson, Joe Browning and Frederic Kiernan, based at the University of Melbourne. Jane Davidson is Professor of Creative and Performing Arts (Music) at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne, and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE). Joseph Browning is a ethnomusicologist and postdoctoral research fellow at CHE specialising in the shakuhachi, central Javanese gamelan, and ethnographic approaches to Western art music. Frederic Kiernan is a PhD candidate at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and research assistant at CHE.

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