The other women of Arabella
I did say in my first Arabella post that I would save comment on the singers-who-aren't-Cheryl for my review, but (as is my wont and my prerogative) I have changed my mind. Having spent two evenings and a matinée with them, a few among them deserve further attention; not to mention a bit of the uncritical adoration which this forum allows.
Lorina Gore is a blinding revelation to me. Though Fiakermilli is her Opera Australia début, I have heard her once before — as Norina in NZ Opera's touring Don Pasquale. As I recall, I was about the only person not to give her a total rave; I found her pretty and polished but not phenomenal. Fiakermilli is another story; whether the transformation owes itself to her own artistic and vocal progress, to the different repertoire, to the change in venue, or to all or none of the above — or whether it's just me, being my usual capricious self — I've no idea. But a transformation it certainly is, and she well nigh knocked my socks off on opening night. Here, operagods be praised, is the kind of full voiced, ringing, precise and genuinely virtuosic coloratura I've found disappointingly lacking from Opera Australia. Not an overpushed soubrette, not an agile but essentially lyric voice; she's the stuff of which Zerbinettas are made — indeed, having discovered she's out there, I'm keener than ever for an Ariadne. I wish she'd sung Olympia in last year's Hoffmann; and I hope Opera Australia plans to take sensible but full advantage of her talent, which is a rare one among their current stable.
I have already lamented the paucity of opportunities to hear Jacqueline Dark in this city. The fortune teller is another too small role but at least it affords a reasonable opportunity to hear her at full throttle, and I'm increasingly aware of what a pleasure this is. What impressed me in her Tisbe impresses me here too, which is that underpinning the rather gorgeous voice is a real idiomatic intelligence, an understanding of style and of phrasing. She struck me in Cenerentola as one of the few who knew how to make her recitative as lyrical and expressive as her arioso and her ensembles; how to integrate it into the musical whole, rather than chopping it up with the mannerisms of speech. In Arabella she carries those long, long Strauss lines exactly where they need to go without glossing over the details; we can enjoy the dialogue between her and Adelaide while simultaneously enjoying the opportunity Strauss offers to bask in two contrastingly lovely mezzo voices.
Which brings me to the other mezzo of Arabella, the ever more significant Milijana Nikolic. Every role I hear Milijana in leaves me more impressed by her — a real dramatic mezzo with the vocal heft, the range of colours and the versatile, vivid stage presence to do justice to the roles which should become her bread and butter. From a genuinely terrifying Zia Principessa, to a ghostly yet imposing Mother of Antonia, to a toweringly seductive Venus and now a hilarious and adorable Adelaide — she's fast becoming a very important part of the company, and I look forward to more and more and more of her. As I think we've already discussed in the comments elsewhere, Opera Australia looks to be doing Aida next year, and I can think of no better Amneris among the company.
And, just briefly, the one-and-only Arabella of Arabella
Fear not, you shan't have reprise of my last paean just yet. However I did my (delectable) duty post-matinée on Saturday, and queued in the foyer to have my programme signed by divine Cheryl Barker. Who arrived, let me add, in full Act Three costume — she only had twenty minutes to get from curtain call to signing session. We're talking lavish and lacy Viennese ballgown, hoop skirt and all, and flowers in her hair. She looked like a dream, was delightful to speak with, and I'm crazier about her than ever. She was also signing at the ABC Shop in the QVB today, so I hope some of the Cherylites reading this blog managed to take advantage of one (or both!) of these chances to enter the the radiant Presence Of.