Tenor Keith Lewis with pianist Susan Melville and soprano Dianne Abraham

St Matthew's Church, Hastings

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A Kiwi Singer's Journey

Tenor Keith Lewis with pianist Susan Melville and soprano Dianne Abraham

St Matthew's Church, Hastings

Friday, February 27

Reviewed by Peter Williams

Described as having "a voice of muted gold", Keith Lewis is now in the latter part of an illustrious career that has seen him grace the stages of the world's famous opera houses and recital halls, sing at major international festivals and with the finest choirs directed by eminent conductors.

As well as his solo recitals, he devotes much time to encouraging up-and-coming singers - hence this series of nationwide recitals in support of the NZ Singing School.

While there are some inequalities evident, especially in the upper register, Lewis still sings with superb artistry which captured the rapt attention of the audience throughout the recital.

The programme, sung in Italian, German, French, Russian and Spanish as well as English, was historic in content. In the opening bracket of Baroque songs, Scarlatti's Le Violette was sung with flexible phrasing and lovely tone on the top notes, while in the classical songs, Beethoven's Adelaide and Schubert's Im Fruhling, he demonstrated vividly the elegant character of each item, particularly the delicacy of the Schubert song.

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Each of the three Canzone by Bellini was clearly contrasted, with moments of dramatic intensity strongly projected and the phrases beautifully shaped, while the two songs by Tchaikowsky were notable for the moving and expressive performance of Lensky's Aria from Eugene Onegin.

In the final bracket of Spanish songs by Guridu and Piazzolla, there was a lilting quality to the singing with the longing of unrequited love clearly expressed.

Gary McCormack's The Earthquake Poem, set to music by Christchurch composer Phillip Norman, was premiered a few days previously, on the fourth anniversary of the second major earthquake, in the concert in the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral. It made a powerful impression in this concert, a convincing duo performance from both Lewis and pianist Susan Melville, clearly portraying aspects of this tragic event.

Here was a telling example of Melville's sympathetic, well-balanced, supportive and stylish accompanying which was a highlight of the concert.

Each of the concerts featured a local singer associated with the NZ Singing School - in this concert Hastings soprano Dianne Abraham. She gave an assured and expressive performance of the famous aria One Fine Day from Madam Butterfly and ably partnered Keith Lewis in duets from Korngold's opera The Dead City and Puccini's La Boheme.

An informative printed programme was provided but a disappointing feature was the lack of clarity in the non-amplified additional spoken commentary from the soloist.