21 April 2015

Danger Territory

Elizabeth Lewis in Dido and Aenaeus
Jeremy Kleeman in Faramondo
Brisbane Baroque
April 2015


Some opera arias are danger territory – traps for old and young players. The Queen of the Night’s high Fs probably head the list; will she get it/them all? “Dido’s Lament” has three dangers: one, that everyone knows how it should be sung; two, that “… laid in earth, may my wrongs create …” are dotted crotchets that must not sound jaunty and three, that “Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.“ has the “e” of remember sung on a high-ish G. “e” flattens the mouth and pitches the sound forward and the note very easily sounds tinny. I’ve heard first class singers not manage it.

Elizabeth Lewis’s voice is still maturing but I’d heard it develop enough over the past 16 months since she joined Victorian Opera’s Master of Music program to know that she would have the depth and vocal richness to produce a beautiful sound. As well, the great Lisa Gasteen and MoM would have made sure that she would be technically eminently capable of producing the notes and acting the role.

In short I knew she had the voice, the talent and some of Australia’s best opera teachers. So it was a case of sit back, relax and wait for her small (even if it is the title role) but immensely powerful singing to grab me.

It did.

She went home to Queensland for that triumph. But for my money she’s ours in Melbourne until she graduates in November 2015.

I last heard Jeremy Kleeman sing a complete opera as the title role in The Magic Pudding in 2013 towards the end of his two year study with the MoM program. In that, his acting (he had the part nailed) and singing were memorable – and first class. Faramondo is light years away from The Pudding – well, 276 years away. But Jeremy seemed to span that divide with apparent ease. He seemed as much in control of Teobaldo, the captain of the guard, as he was inside the head (bowl?) of the curmudgeonly pudding.

Two things struck me about his performance in Brisbane: one, that his voice is maturing beautifully – deeper and richer and two, that his acting skills are great. In Pudding he was grumpy and constantly threatened with violence, in Faramondo he got royally beaten up by the black shirts in motorbike helmets – blood on his chest and all. But still he kept singing – superbly. It occurred to me then that he is in line for AO’s Don Giovanni. He is well on the way to developing the voice and he looks good as a member of the bbbb*.

I’m looking forward to seeing him standing on the dining table, going to hell.
*bare belly button brigade