Great Opera Moments 2022
Royal Whanganui Opera House
Saturday, January 22
Reviewed by Lin Ferguson
This was yet another superb showcase final concert from director Jacqueline Coats and her assistant Kararina Walker. Bravo!
Again Coats' sure directorial hand meant the 21 students of the New Zealand Opera School, to put it in today's idiom, "had their moves down" and sang with confidence and flair.
The audience loved them, from proud parents and grannies to people who simply loved to hear opera performed live, an unusual phenomenon these days but we live in hope it will be back.
There were, of course, standout performances because each student was featured and highlighted and all sang to the full glory of their young strong voices.
How satisfying it is for us "grown-ups" in the audience to be bathed in their eager young performances and see that beaming commitment by everyone as they face their audience and sing with big hearts and winning talent.
The baby of the school at just 19 years old, Jasmine Jessen from Wellington, who is also a violinist, was an enchanting and fragile Juliet in her "Je veux vivre" from Romeo and Juliet by Gounod.
She had the beautiful, dreamlike quality Gounod intended. Her voice encapsulated the sweetness of the aria beautifully.
Lemauseafa Sio Lolesio's "O pallida che un iorno" by Mascagni was rich and warm. Her strong voice flowed with absolute surety and had a liquid quality that was thrilling.
Young Hawke's Bay tenor Jordan Fonotu-Fuimaono delivered a warm and lyrical "Where'er you Walk", the great Handel classic. His energy was fully focused in delivering this song with every nuance and careful phrasing throughout.
His older brother Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimanono's "Salut! Demeure chaste et pure'' from Faust by Gounod brought beauty and warmth to this aria, with his powerful tenor voice ringing out and absolutely delighting this audience with its musicality.
And then there was a young woman - Rhiannon Cooper, an incredible young singer ... one to watch.
As she glided on to the stage and sang "Einsam in truben Tagen" from Lohengrin by Wagner, this statuesque singer was riveting, utterly memorable. We will hear more of her.
She had that indefinable quality of a powerful stage presence, a quality that can't be learned.
This was a truly grand concert. Thank you New Zealand Opera School. Long may you stay in Whanganui. We are so proud of you.