A Gala Concert Live From Sydney Opera House
Sydney harbour‚ Jørn Utzon’s opera house‚ a coolly spacious interior‚ expectation in the air and then – what a pleasant surprise if you haven’t looked at the programme in advance – Handel. The Overture to Radamisto: just the thing‚ telling of a world where greatness may be achieved when the spirit is free to delight in its energy. Then‚ first each in turn‚ then both together‚ we meet the great ladies whom everybody has come to hear‚ no longer young‚ it’s true‚ but with a good deal of voice left to them‚ still more of technique‚ and anyway they are themselves‚ renowned‚ almost legendary‚ and dear to the heart probably of everyone present.
Such is the atmosphere in the house. In the home…well‚ it may be stretching a point to say that it is exactly the same. You can’t really pretend you are there‚ and‚ not being there‚ it’s not always easy to see that there is much to be gained from viewing on the box. The closeups are of limited interest‚ pleasure and advisability. Beyond the singers can be glimpsed the faces of orchestral players‚ some of whom clearly don’t think they are paid to look as if they are enjoying themselves. At least one solo benefits from being seen as well as heard: in the Doll’s song from Les contes d’Hoffmann Sutherland performs to perfection the clockwork gestures‚ the running down of the mechanism and its rewinding. Horne‚ too‚ accompanies her singing with some delightful facial expressions as she accentuates the negative in the Page’s song from Les Huguenots. Those will be good to see again; I don’t forsee many happy returns for this DVD otherwise.
The recorded sound is probably quite faithful‚ but in all honesty‚ much as there is to admire‚ I didn’t greatly enjoy it. Twenty years earlier the quality of the voices would have been very different. Oddly perhaps (and perhaps not)‚ after all the bravura and brilliance‚ the abiding memory of singing that might have come from the years of their prime was Marilyn Horne’s encore‚ Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer.