14.12.17 A Musical Collage of Human Passion News Image

"Soprano Norma Fantini, Tenor Luciano Ganci and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra"/ The Sunday Times of Malta / 14.XII.2014 / Photo: Shaun Sultana.

Tony Cassar Darien revels in an evening dedicated to the most beloved opera pieces.  

Posted: 17th December 2014

Review: A Musical Collage of Human Passion
Reviewer: Tony Cassar Darien
Published on: The Sunday Times of Malta
Edition: Sunday 14th December 2014

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During the interval of the Grand Operatic Concert at the Aurora Opera House in Victoria, I casually remarked to a small circle of friends who, like me had earlier on crossed over from Ċirkewwa, that this was our third visit in almost as many weeks.

And when I observed how this year’s Gozitan operatic fare strikes me as bordering on the sumptuous, a well-known and much loved personality in Gozo impulsively commented that we, as a longtime faithful audience, also deserved credit for our support for the small island’s enduring and painstaking artistic endeavour. Wasn’t that nice?

The concert was coordinated by the 14-year-old Classi-que Foundation, a non-profit-making cultural organisation which aims at promoting music culture by organising privately- funded concerts.

Joseph Debrincat, the foundation’s mentor, conducted the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. As artistic director, he engaged the services of two internationally-renowned singers, besides formulating an extremely interesting and demanding programme.

This included well-known arias and duets, two very popular overtures and ballet music.

Undoubtedly, one of the main attractions on such occasions are the guest musicians and the foundation was fortunate to sign two very accomplished singers: soprano Norma Fantini and tenor Luciano Ganci, whose careers have graced some of the famed opera houses.

The tall soprano Fantini proved to be a veritable grande dame de la scene lyrique, portraying a formidable dramatic presence on stage.

Her soaring soprano voice and technical virtuosity enabled her to sail through diverse arias such as the heroine’s despairing Ebben?... Ne andro lontana in Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally and the poignant Vissi d’arte, which Puccini ingeniously endowed upon Tosca in order to woo the sympathy of her audiences.

After the interval, Fantini brought a pungent pathos to Margherita’s lament from Boito’s Mefistofele as she tells of the drowning of her baby.

Her elegant top notes, coupled with her clear diction, were also evident in La Mamma Morta, as she describes to Gerard her mother’s horrible death when the mob burnt down her house in Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano.

Ganci must be very satisfied at the outcome of his Maltese debut. The young singer oozes confidence on stage, while projecting a spirited tenor lyric voice with the occasional flair of bel canto, but not without some occasional rough edges with the top notes.

In Ganci’s opening aria from Lucia di Lammermoor, when Edgardo in Act III curses all and sundry at Ravenswood and longs for death, he laments man’s duplicity in Tombe degli avi miei… Fra poco a me ricovero, better known as the Tomb Scene.

The scene comprises a heartbreaking aria and one could not mistake Edgardo’s pouring out his grief before stabbing himself so he can join Lucia in death.

The Roman-born tenor’s musicality was apparent in his rendering of Quando le sere placido from Luisa Millerby Verdi.

Though rhythmically uniform in its andante format, the aria wakes up in its final measures, thus enlivening the entire piece.

More fine singing characterised his Cielo e mar interpretation from Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and Tosca’s evergreen E lucevan le stelle, that raw melodious heart breaker so typical of Puccini’s verismo.

I tend to treat operatic love duets as reunions with old friends who, though absent for dishearteningly extended periods of time, immediately become familiar and treasured as immediate family.

This concert once again served to confirm the current artistic health of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
 

This was apparent in Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia from Madama Butterfly and O soave fanciulla from La Boheme.

The vocal earnestness of the singers in the latter piece, warmly setting the vocal line and ascending the top notes in unison with Fantini as Mimì, joining Rodolfo on the phrase Ah! tu sol comm-andi, amor! demonstrated a confident playfulness which went down extremely well with the audience.

This concert once again served to confirm the current artistic health of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, which conveyed Rossini’s tunefulness and Verdi’s drama in the overtures to William Tell and La forza del destino respectively.

Debrincat’s hands-on involvement in the concert (right down to the editing of the marvellous programme) must have ensured the impressive response by the musicians to such diverse styles as the Aragonaise in Carmen and the Bacchanale in Samson and Delilah, besides the effective accompaniment meted out to his singers.

This pleasant event provided that rare occasion when the magic of opera enables musicians, singers and audience to come together in an act of fellowship that expresses a musical collage of human passion. And explains why when opera Gozo beckons, the Maltese follow.

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