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Published on July 19th, 2011 | by pluincee


Review: Opera at the Orangery

Opera – especially in a country as small as Ireland – is a closeknit community, one that is often seen as being exclusive or elitist. Because of that perception and having not yet been to one of Ronnie Dunne’s Operatic Garden Parties, I was unsure what to expect, but as I entered the opulent (albeit breezy) grounds of Kilruddery House, I was struck by the cordiality of the affair. The welcoming atmosphere was only extended by the pre-recital prosecco reception, the interval canapés and the raffle in aid of the triennial Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition.

While the Orangery showcase is closely linked to the competition, in a non-competition year, its focus is much more on showcasing young talent than giving the winners a platform and this afternoon of opera did just that. With experienced voices such as Sandra Oman & Deirdre Masterson in a much more supportive role than I imagined they would be, the starlets of the show were really given opportunity to shine (and took it, with great gusto!)

The diverse programme – which ranged from Bizet to Verdi with Delibes, Gounod, Korgold, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart in between – allowed all the performers showcase their impressive ranges while the chemistry between them during duets was enchanting and brought the audience right into the world of whichever opera the particular excerpt had been taken.

Though the Orangery, as a building – with its thick stone walls and vaulted, single-glazed glass ceiling – hints at rather a harsh acoustic, as soon as the singers started into a piece, we might as well have been in the most exquisitely designed opera house, the sound enveloping the audience in a truly magnificent manner.

By far the strongest performer, Laura Nicorescu established herself early on as an operatic singer (rather than an oratorio performer). She engaged the audience through her expression and interaction with the other singers. Not even the combined efforts of Sandra Oman & Deirdre Masterson performing Delibes’ renowned Flower Duet (from Lakme) came close to enthralling as much as Laura’s relaxed style and comfortable vocal acrobatics typical of bel canto did.

Sandra & Deirdre perform Delibes' Flower Duet

Ryan Morgan charmed the audience once he had gotten over his initial nerves (even leaving the stage between performances at one point, being ‘so relieved it went well that I forgot I was singing again!’) while Rory Musgrave showed why he is a prominent member of Anúna, moving freely and confidently through the room while singing solo and in duet with Deirdre (La ci darem la mano, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni). His mellow baritone was well controlled throughout his performance and flowed through the room, a warming lyrical sound on a chilly summer’s day.

Unfortunately, and it is something which is often experienced when a repetiteur rather than an ensemble is relied on for accompaniment, the piano was at times overpowering and either pushed the singers to increase their volume or simply drowned them out. This detracted from the enjoyment of some of the performances slightly, though Laura never seemed to struggle with this in the same way her fellow singers did.

Ryan and Laura eventually stole the show with the final ‘suite’ of the afternoon. A trio of pieces from the first act of Puccini’s La Bohème (Che gelida manina; Mi chiamano Mimi; O soave fanciulla) enraptured the audience entirely. Nary a programme shuffled, no cough was heard, no chair scraped as the duo initially sang to each other, finally coming together and singing while looking out over the idyllic garden behind them. These two are certainly starlets to watch out for over the course of the next few years.

A wonderful afternoon’s entertainment, Opera at the Orangery is a must on any opera lover’s summer calendar not just for the pure enjoyment but also because it gives an opportunity to encounter fresh talent and serve as a reminder that opera in this country is going from strength to strength. As chairman of the competition, Diarmuid Hegarty, reminded the audience at their departure, the reason young international voices want so much to come to Ireland is simply because ‘We have Ronnie!’

Opera at the Orangery runs from 3pm-6pm Sunday July 24, 2011 at Killruddery House and Gardens, Bray, Co Wicklow.

Tickets are priced at €60, including wine & canapés, and advanced booking is required on (01) 415 0445.

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Can be found on twitter (@pluincee) or on his own blog (http://short.ie/pluincee).

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