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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 9 2005 (article first published : 2005-06-11)

An evening of operatic arias is by no stretch of the imagination a symphony concert, but it certainly brings in the customers. This concert in the KZN Philharmonic’s “world symphony series” was by far the best attended of all those in the winter season. The Durban City Hall was virtually full, though I suspect there was a certain amount of paper in the house, show business lingo for complimentary tickets.

With the help of the Italian Embassy in South Africa and the Arena di Verona, the amphitheatre in Verona which was built nearly two thousand years ago and is one of the biggest open-air theatres in the world, the orchestra was able to present an Italian conductor, Armando Tasso, and three top-rate singers from Italy, Daniela Longhi (soprano), Cesare Catani (tenor) and Fabio Previati (baritone), plus a gifted local baritone, Nicholas Ndadane. They offered a lengthy programme of 19th century operatic music by Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni and Giordano, much of it off the beaten track and all the more welcome for that.

I am biased because I like baritone voices best of all, but I thought that Fabio Prevati was the star performer, a singer of great power and accomplishment. At various points in the programme he displayed an expressive, controlled and accurate voice, and he brought the house down with the celebrated “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, caressing a couple of women orchestra players, singing to the conductor and capering around the stage with enormous zest. A memorable performance.

Daniela Longhi showed great purity of tone and a wide vocal range, particularly in the difficult “Pace, pace mio Dio” from Verdi’s La Forza del destino. Cesare Catani’s fine tenor voice cracked a couple of times, seemingly as a result of some kind of throat problem, but he pressed on gallantly, and was given long and sympathetic applause from the audience.

Nicholas Ndadane is a product of the University of Durban Westville and he is an experienced singer who has appeared in various operas. He has an imposing stage presence and a bass baritone voice of good quality which he projects musically and skilfully.

Armando Tasso, a conductor steeped in Italian opera, drew forth some excellent playing from the orchestra, especially in the opening item, the overture to Verdi’s Nabucco.

This was a big night for music in Durban and the singers responded to enthusiastic applause by giving encores. - Michael Green




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