Yes, I am here, alive and well and beginning to cope with my new, sunny and highly populated home. But no longer, for the time being at least, at leisure to labour for hours over a single post, so I shall have to settle for speed blogging.
The gala on Wednesday night was fantastic. For me, a little like attending three events at once though — an evening where Yvonne Kenny sang, an evening where I got to see Joan Sutherland in person and only after both of those things, a gala. From my side view seat I couldn't always hear all the singing perfectly, but when it mattered, I could — the singers really worth hearing by definition had the voices which carried backwards as well as forwards.
Yvonne sang "Vilja" from The Merry Widow, as I suspected she might, but in the translation she sang in San Francisco in 2002, not the (execrable) one which Opera Australia used in 2004. (I have a mild obsession with Merry Widow translations. Ignore me.) Also we had the final ensemble from Falstaff, including that magnificent high C of hers which I so adore. She was heartstoppingly beautiful, of course. She always is. Funny that. And seeing her so soon after my arrival is the best welcome to my new home I could have asked for.
Other vocal highlights (though still necessarily well and truly in her shadow) — Henry Choo's contribution to the Act I ensemble from Die Zauberflöte, Elizabeth Connell's transcendant Liebestod, Lisa Gasteen's "Dich teure Halle" and the gorgeous Fiona Janes, who really ought to have been given a solo number instead of just the L'italiana in Algieri ensemble she formed part of. Glenn Winslade disappointed, however, in "Fuor del mar" with haphazard coloratura and audible strain, and Rosario La Spina, who I assumed would be fantastic, was, well, not particularly — but perhaps that was just from where I was sitting. His "La donna è mobile" seemed underpowered and discoloured, but earned him rapturous applause, so what do I know?
And Joanie. The second she, with the rest of the offical party (though no Bonynge) entered the theatre I was in tears. What a privilege to be in her presence. At the end of the listed items came the birthday surprises, streamers and sparkles and bright lights — and, in pitch black, a few minutes of the woman herself, spectacular in Sonnambula. Absolutely glorious. Vive la reine.