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STARLIGHT POP OPERA (article first published : 2006-08-7)

First National Bank in conjunction with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra again delighted audiences tonight with another Starlight Pop Opera in the open air on the Durban Country Club’s fairway. Despite the chilly conditions being experienced by the rest of the country, it was a beautiful starry moonlit evening – just the kind of event that reminds us why we live in Durban!

Thanks to VIP treatment from the organisers we were treated to a sumptuous hamper and camp chairs. Around us were thousands of people – some sitting on the hilly area next to us, others stretching back as far as the eye could see. As the night drew in, people twirled and waved their light sticks to create a festive atmosphere.

Starlight Pop Opera strong favourites Bongani Tembe and Linda Bukhosini gave renditions of a number of operatic pieces, closing with a medley from West Side Story. Much-loved by Durban audiences, conductor Leslie B Dunner drew strong crowd response when he hopped off the podium for an impromptu dance with Linda, stepping back again right on cue to wield the baton once more. Hosted by Dawn Spencer, the programme also featured singers Melanie Lowe, Veramarie Meyer, Lwazi Ncube, Robert Petersen, Crystal Tryon and saxophonist Abbey Artico.

Melanie Lowe gave us a soulful rendering of Summertime with Abbey Artico who went on to raise tumultuous applause for In The Mood although soloist and orchestra weren’t always on the same beat. Having had the experience of having had to Climb Every Mountain before, I know what a tortuous route it is but Veramarie Meyer sailed blithely through as if it was a casual stroll, emerging triumphant at the peak! My admiration is unbounded!

Lwazi Ncube, who partnered Veramarie in the duet from Lakmé, has been training abroad and this concert provided a perfect vehicle for her to show us how she has emerged as a confident and assured singer. Robert Petersen and Crystal Tryon provided one of the highlights with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

The KZNPO played exceptionally well although the sound system wasn’t very complimentary in places. The Durban Serenade Choral Society were in fine form, as always, but it was the Kearsney College Choir that impressed the audience - proving the standard of presentation which has won them accolades overseas.

There is no doubt that this event is a major highlight in the Durban musical entertainment calendar and all kudos to First National Bank for their support. I liked the reference by Michael Jordaan, CEO of First National Bank, in the programme notes to a quote from author and journalist Hendrik Willem van Loon who once said that the arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the stock market or debates in congress. Way to go, FNB!

While I admit that the fireworks at the end produced a stunning display and a dramatic close to the concert, I couldn’t help thinking that the money could perhaps be better spent in offering training to a promising opera singer. The terms of the contract could state that the singer would have to perform at the next Starlight Pop Opera to show audiences how they had benefited from such training. Thus the legacy would continue instead of going up in smoke in a few minutes. Still, that’s just my opinion. Roll on Starlight Pop Opera 2007! – Caroline Smart




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