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KZNPO CONCERT: JUNE 1, 2006 (article first published : 2006-06-2)

This concert was an evening of excerpts from Italian operas of relatively recent times; all seven composers on the programme died well into the 20th century, and their work covers the verismo period of opera, when a sense of realism replaced the extravagant fantasies of earlier years.

The concert, which marked the 60th anniversary this year of the Italian republic, was sponsored by the Italian embassy in South Africa and various cultural bodies. It featured two gentlemen and a lady of Verona. These artists, Armando Tasso (conductor), Daniela Longhi (soprano) and Luigi Frattola (tenor), perform regularly in the Arena di Verona, said to be the largest music amphitheatre in the world.

It was refreshing to hear operatic music that moved away from the beaten track. One does not very often hear excerpts from the operas of Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), Francesco Cilea (1866-1950), Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948), Umberto Giordano (1867-1948) and Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916), he of the famous farewell. Predictably, the large audience gave their warmest applause to more familiar items by Puccini, Mascagni and Leoncavallo, but they must surely have enjoyed their journey into new territory with the other works performed.

Daniela Longhi is a soprano with a distinguished international career (she has sung in South Africa before). She is tall, dark-haired and attractive, and her voice is of excellent quality, with not too much vibrato and with a good lower register.

Luigi Frattola, tenor, is another experienced singer, a burly man with a neat moustache and a small beard, very Italian. His voice is of fairly light timbre and his singing is accurate, controlled, and artistic.

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra responded admirably to the conductor, Armando Tasso (who, incidentally, is married to Daniela, the soprano). He has a restrained style on the podium, with expressive hands and not too much vigorous arm-waving. He extracted some lovely sounds from the orchestra, especially in the tender and beautiful intermezzo from Cilea’s opera Adriana Lecouvreur.

Altogether a highly successful concert which did full justice to its patriotic purpose. - Michael Green




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