What: Auckland Opera Studio
Where: Town Hall Concert Chamber
Reviewer: William Dart
For decades, Frances Wilson and her Auckland Opera Studio have played a key role in supporting the extraordinary vocal talent that our country produces.
From intimate recitals, most recently with Amitai Pati enthralling us in Schumann's Dichterliebe, to fully staged productions, such as 2018's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, the operatic spirit has been lovingly and expertly nurtured.
Little wonder that Sunday night's Gala Concert, featuring five of our finest young singers with the incomparable pianist Somi Kim, drew a full house.
Even MC Pene Pati, in a non-singing role, was a star with his effortless navigation of four European languages, and a line of genial banter that would assure him of a second career as stand-up comic.
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It was a marvellous opportunity to catch up with singers whose successful careers we have followed both here and overseas.
The demands of Richard Strauss were as nothing to the two sopranos, Eliza Boom in a transcendent "September", Natasha Wilson receiving Octavian's rose with elegance and grace.
The versatile Manase Latu moved effortlessly from florid Donizetti to the sweet ear candy of a Richard Tauber operetta.
Benson Wilson reminded us of his Lexus Song Quest victory in 2016 with noble Korngold while Amitai Pati, the 2012 Lexus winner, closed the first half of the programme with heart-stoppingly heroic Liszt.
Finely tuned ensembles reminded us that opera is essentially theatre. Boom and Pati were the rapturous lovers of La Boheme, while Pati and Benson Wilson thrilled in their duet from Don Carlos.
After our MC had introduced Beethoven's Fidelio quartet with a virtuoso spiel on gender confusion, the singing was exquisite, led by Natasha Wilson's sparkling Marcellina.
In an evening of palpable crowd-pleasers, the last few items, including two encores, allowed the singers to relax on the lighter side, with Johann Strauss, a touch of Lehar, and Verdi's "Libiamo" providing the perfect toast to a most enjoyable evening.