Reviews 2017

Virtuosi opera delivers goods

Virtuosi Tasmania
The Impresario
Stefano Lubiana, Granton

VIRTUOSI Tasmania extends its range of repertoire with this foray into opera.

Mozart's The Impresario is a short and rarely heard work in the German singspiel tradition consisting of a delightful overture, here skilfully transcribed for piano by Jennifer Marten-Smith, and four vocal numbers. Most of the piece comprises spoken dialogue based on an English translation by G. Schirmer.

This sort of thing can fall very flat if not delivered with precise comic timing and clear diction. Luckily these performers delivered in spades. Sopranos Michaela Darlington as Madame Goldentrill and Abbie Radford as Miss Silverpeal skilfully negotiated a fine line between "good" and "bad" character singing with ease and humour.

Tenor Tom Buckmaster, bass baritone Darcy O'Malley, and Paul Radford in the non-singing role of the impresario gave polished, well-rehearsed turns. Jennifer Marten-Smith's piano accompaniment was stylish and sensitive.

Peter Donnelly
Mercury, 8 February 2017

String trio

Virtuosi Tasmania
Mostly Mozart
Stefano Lubiana, Granton

A program of rarely heard string trios Mozart, Borodin and Boccherini was presented in the intimate surrounds of Stefano Lubiana winery. The Mozart pieces were entertainment trifles – No 3 from the 5 Divertimenti K 439b, composed 1781 to 1784, usually appearing in the scoring for 3 basset horns, and a Sonata (Trio) in B-flat, K 266 in 2 movements. Hayato Simpson, Frances Davies (violins), and Sophie Radke (cello) - young players from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra – brought charm and nuanced style to their playing of this slight, but entertaining music.

It was of considerable interest to hear the 2 movements of a String Trio in G major by Borodin, one of many uncompleted works by the Russian master who split his professional life between composition and his equal pre-eminence as a Professor of Chemistry and research chemist. While this trio lacks the lyrical distinction and memorability of his great String Quartet No 2 in D major (1881), it contains material of some freshness of invention that was well conveyed by these performers. A lively bonus to the printed program was the inclusion of a trio by Boccherini – No 4 from a set of 6.

Peter Donnelly

The Soldier’s Tale

Virtuosi Tasmania
The Soldier’s Tale
Home Hill Winery, Ranelagh

Celebrating 25 years of chamber music performances around the State, this program was a major undertaking for Virtuosi Tasmania. Stravinsky’s 1918 piece The Soldier’s Tale (L’histoire du soldat) is a fable for 3 speakers and a dancer, with music by an instrumental ensemble. The story involves a soldier and fiddler, Joseph, who encounters the Devil with whom he makes a Faustian pact. The English edition used here was for one speaker to a text by British writer Jeremy Sams. Actor and broadcaster Ryk Goddard, adding some interpolations of his own, was the linchpin for the success of this performance. Put simply, he was stunningly effective - by turn’s witty, dark, absurd, grotesque –encompassing all the characters and situations in the story with a virtuoso display of the actor’s craft. Stravinsky’s score, incorporating neoclassical and jazz influences, requires top-notch instrumental standards. The performers drawn from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra were of the highest calibre. Greg Stephens conducted the ensemble – Jennifer Owen (violin), James Menzies (double bass), Mark Bain (trumpet), Jonathon Ramsay (trombone), Andrew Seymour (clarinet), Tahnee Van Herk (bassoon), and Tracey Patten (percussion). Their tight, polished playing set the seal on a superb entertainment.

Peter Donnelly
Mercury, 7 September 2017