Great Opera Moments 2016, New Zealand Opera School, Directed by Sara Brodie.
Royal Wanganui Opera House, Saturday January 16.
Reviewer: Lin Ferguson

I'm starting this review with the show's finale because it still resonates with me 24 hours later.

This ensemble of 20 students were a powerful, energy force as they launched into Rossini's Il Viaggio a Rheims ("Ah, this blow so unexpected"), a piece that has been acclaimed as one of Rossini's finest compositions.

It has been described as a demanding work, and at its premiere in 1825 it was sung by the greatest voices of the day.


On Saturday night these young students absolutely smashed it. This was a stunning, passionate young group, focused and strong.

Director Sara Brodie created a magnificent end-of-year show, and maestro conductor Michael Vinten, with humour and dedication, has coached these students into an unforgettable show.

Providing sure and strong backbone were the flair and expertise of accompanists Sharolyn Kimmorely, Terence Dennis, Bruce Greenfield, David Kelly, Dr Greg Neil, Travis Baker and interns Liam Wooding and Heather Easting. They were all remarkable and, at times, awe-inspiring to watch.

It's never easy to to make the calls on which pieces were exceptional, there were certainly a few stand-outs.

Jarvis Dams's Largo al Factotum from Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville, was masterful, Katherine McIndoe's singing Ah! Je ris me voir si belle from Gounod's Faust was as beautiful and glittering as the casket of jewels she had discovered.

A superb and known difficult trio to sing, Tous le trois reunis, from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, with Madison Nonoa Filipe Manu and Jarvis Dams was a triumph, considering these are young singers, fledgings just spreading their vocal wings.

Eliza Boom opened Act 2 with the achingly tender The Willow Song (The Ballad of Baby Doe) by Douglas Moore. Boom has a clear, open voice, which delivered the emotion without spilling into a maudlin heap. She was quite lovely.

Youngest student in the camp Harry Grigg, 19, delivered Tosti's Aprile showing the solid future promise to come in his developing voice.

A voice of natural musicality and strength.

And Filipe Manu's Candide's Lament - from Bernstein's's opera Candide, where he learns that his lover, Cunegonde, is dead - was passionate and stirring.

There is a fine quality in Manu, an emotional understanding, a stage presence that, in my book, puts him firmly on that road to a working, singing career with plenty of accolades ahead.

And talking about works in progress, the capacity audience was thrilled when acclaimed Whanganui portrait artist Felicity Priest, whose exhibition is up at the Sarjeant Gallery, wheeled a canvas on stage and dashed paint along to the music.

She was a joy to watch.

So, a well satisfied audience but still a shame there aren't younger muisc lovers in there yet ... maybe next year.

Bravo, team!