It is a special experience to hear an artist at the height of his or her powers. Aucklanders were able to experience that from Bryn Terfel on Saturday evening.
To opera and classical music aficionados, Terfel needs little introduction. He is truly a superstar who regularly appears at the most famous opera houses such as La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Covent Garden in London and is highly regarded for his rich bass-baritone voice particularly in the works of Wagner. So when the NZSO announced its 2013 Season last year, this quickly became one of the must-go concerts of the year.
Arias from Das Rheingold (Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge) and from Die Walkure (Wotan’s Farewell and the Magic Fire Music) comprised the first half and showed the stamina, dynamic and vocal range Wagner demands in his operas. Terfel looked like he wanted to stride the stage to show the audience Wotan’s strong emotions as he calls Loge, the demigod of fire, to provide the magic flame that will encircle Brunnhilde. The NZSO under Tecwyn Evans provided a superb accompaniment for Terfel and also set the mood with the Overture to Tannhauser and the Ride of the Valkyries in between arias as well.
On paper, the second half of the programme seemed rather light, a mixture of show tunes from Camelot, Fiddler on the Roof and some folk songs. Not so. With the house lights up, a relaxed Terfel joked and engaged with the audience to much delight.
Explaining that he grew up on his father’s farm in Wales, he had apparently terrorised the border collies while learning ‘Son lo spirito che nega‘ from Boito’s Mephistofele. It wasn’t hard to hear why as Terfel took great delight at the demonic whistling required. He probably woke up all the dogs in the Auckland CBD with that !
He jokingly suggested that he might have missed his chance at a Hollywood break what with Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Russell Crowe in Les Miserables. But neither of them would be able to sing “Oh, what a beautiful morning” from ‘Oklahoma’, “How To Handle A Woman” from ‘Camelot’ and “If I Were A Rich Man” from ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ with Terfel’s versatility in any genre.
The end of the published programme was ‘Molly Malone‘ and Terfel challenged the Aotea Centre audience to surpass the Wellington audience of the previous night in the chorus. I think we did all right – who wouldn’t pass up a chance to sing with him ?
A delicate encore of ‘Shenandoah‘ followed by “All Through The Night” (in Welsh) and Pokarekare Ana in Maori were wonderfully done. A standing ovation seemed only fitting for a fantastic artist.
A truly memorable concert, definitely one of the highlights of 2013.