Opera in the Paddock

April 6, 2016

If anyone doubted the onset of climate change they only had to attend Opera in the Paddock in 2015 and 2016. After the ‘wash out’ last year with a tremendous lightning storm, this year’s event on Saturday April 2nd was much the opposite, with clear dry skies, a baked black soil underfoot and the hot breath of a long lasting ‘summer’ drifting through the gum trees of Delungra.

Opera in the Paddock 2016

Spectacular finale to Opera in the Paddock 2016

An earlier 5pm start had the umbrellas up again this time to shade the 650 opera buffs as they waited to see what the 2016 program would produce. The wonderful vocal cast of soprano Elizabeth Lewis, tenor Bradley Daley, bass baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the enduring hostess, soprano Peta Blyth OAM, graced the stage with the fabulous 22 piece “Mimosa Orchestra” under the baton of conductor Timothy Sexton.

This program was a beautifully balanced mix of opera classics, operetta favourites and the selection of timeless pieces from the wonderful world of musical theatre.

Young soprano, Elizabeth Lewis displayed her great vocal range with Nacquiall’ afforno…Non piu di mesta from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, beginning the concert with a lovely ‘cinderella’ moment.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes followed, with the big voice of Figaro, the Barber of Seville, and Largo al factorum, also by Rossini.

Peta showed that her lyric soprano continues to shine with Mozart’s MarternallerArten from The Abduction from the Harem. Brad Daley’s warm and engaging tenor voice, was introduced with Florestan’s aria from ‘Fidelio’, Beethoven’s only opera.

The classic aria La ci darem la mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, sung as a duet by Elizabeth and Teddy was followed by five Verdi masterpieces from his operas La Traviata, Don Carlos, I VespriSiciliani and Rigoletto, to end the first session of the program.

With the golden sunset behind the Mimosa stage, Teddy commenced the second part with a waistcoat to rival the sunset and the vibrant Toreador Song from Bizet’s Carmen. Brad then introduced the character Jose, from that same opera, and the heartfelt aria La fleur que tum’avaisjetee.

Peta next performed Depuis le jour from Louise by Gustave Charpentier.

This was the first I had heard this song, and I commend its beautiful melody and the lovely way that Peta performed it.

Two crowd favourites followed, possibly the most famous duets in the opera repertoire. Dome epais known as the Flower Song from Lakme by Delibes was hauntingly performed by Elizabeth and Peta and the wonderful Pearl Fishers duet, Au fond du temple saint by Bizet, performed with great blend and balance by Brad and Teddy.

Operetta was then introduced to the program, with Peta performing Heai, heia, in den Bergen istmein Heimatland from Die Csardasfurstin by Kalman, and Brad warmly engaging the audience with Dein is meinganzes Herz from Das Land des Lachelns by Lehar. Brad also engaged with a local bush fly during his song, but as a true professional, he coughed it up and proceeded, sans fly, to the delight of the audience.

It truly was an enchanted evening, and when Teddy returned to the stage in his denim board shorts to perform Some Enchanted Evening from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, it was clear to all that this was ‘opera in the paddock’. .. And the fun continued when Brad, not to be outdone by his baritone colleague, ventured ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady by Lerner and Lowe, dressed in his own ‘brown boardies’.

As the stars began appearing in the cloudless Mimosa sky, Teddy sang Javert’s promise to the heavens, ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables, before being joined on stage by his vocal colleagues, concluding the program with ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ also from Schonberg’s, Les Miserables. A standing ovation from the audience brought the company back on stage and with an invitation from Conductor Timothy Sexton to join in, they concluded a magical evening with the ‘Merry Widow Waltz’ from Lehar’s operetta Die LustigeWitwe.

It was a triumphant evening for Peta and Bill Blyth and for all of their helpers and the supporters of Opera North West Ltd. What will be the future for ‘Opera in the Paddock’? Hopefully there will be more marvellous performances under the wide Delungra skies, where the stars certainly do shine.

Contributed by Rick Hutton