Richard Cock leaves the multitudes in aweMaike Gevers
Maike Gevers: Conductor Richard Cock once again displayed not only his passion for music and drama, but also his exemplary ability to engage with the crowd.
"You’d better have your cellphone on you so we can find you later," so said a lady to her friend at the entrance to Kirstenbosch on Sunday afternoon. According to security, the Summer Sunset crowd had not been this large in a long time. And who was performing? Nope, not Goldfish, not the Parlotones, not Prime Circle. None less than the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in an International Opera Gala Concert.
My boyfriend and I were lucky to even find a spot in the concert area. The skies were clear and blue and the summer sun hot. The setting was perfect to wine and dine with some classical music. And given that this concert marked the end of the Cape Town International Music Festival, we decided to supply ourselves with some extra delectable treats - sushi!
The concert started with the Prelude & Aragonaise from Bizet's Carmen. The whole crowd went quiet as the CPO started to play. Tjoepstil. That was quite an experience, sitting SILENTLY in Kirstenbosch Gardens, listening to good music. The orchestra started a little weak but by the time the strong brass kicked in, the energy was transferred to the violinists and the passionate music set the tone for the rest of the concert. Talking - let alone opening a packet of chips - was strictly limited to the stretches of applause in between songs (lest you hear the old music fundi next to you fletch his teeth at you and hiss a "SHHHHHH!" - no really, it happened.)
Other opera works included Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Saint-Saën's Samson and Deliah, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte, Verdi's Don Carlos and even a collection of dances by Edward German which had not been performed by the CPO since the 1930s. The soloists for the evening were Goitsemang Lehobye (soprano), Olesya Petrova (mezzo-soprano) and Colin Schachat (baritone).
The famous Habanera from Carmen was performed by Olesya Petrova with a brilliant tone of voice which left the crowd in awe. She also snuck in some sensual dance movements which had the crowd giggling and cheering madly at the end. Another highlight of the concert was without a doubt Petrova's performance of Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix, the aria in Samson and Delilah in which Delilah tries to seduce Samson to cut off his hair and rid him of his strength. Petrova displayed complete control of her voice throughout the whole vocal range of the aria as she sang gently and softly but with absolute clarity and flawless pronunciation. The harp featured beautifully in this piece as well, accompanying Petrova tenderly and gracefully with flowing arpeggios.
The Intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana composed by Pietro Mascagni featured no soloists, but had members of the audience lying down on the grass with closed eyes, absorbing the sweet harmonies produced by the CPO. And, of course, Toreador's March was a complete crowd-pleaser; not only was everyone clapping along, but by now the highly strung classicists had loosened up and were humming along with the rest of us.
Conductor Richard Cock once again displayed not only his passion for music and drama, but also his exemplary ability to engage with the crowd, informing us of each song’s history and operatic plot. All the arias were hence contextualised and gave us the ability to engage with the music on a deeper level. And Richard Cock is full of humour too. It is very clear why he is so popular among audience and musicians alike, and the conductor of choice for the annual CPO Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset concert.
After loud demands for more, we were spoilt with two encores. Cock even had us singing along to All I Ask of You from the Phantom of the Opera sung by Lehobye and Schachat.
It was a fantastic end to our weekend and to the Cape Town International Music Festival. The only slight dampener for me was the sight of the litter left behind on the grass. Nothing hectic - mostly small things like sweet wrappers and wine seals, but I felt it was a shame that people who have attended such a stunning event in such a beautiful venue should not take twenty seconds to check the grass around them after they pack up.
The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra featuring Goitsemang Lehobye (soprano), Olesya Petrova (mezzo-soprano) and Colin Schachat (baritone) performed in the International Opera Gala Concert on 26 February at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens during its Summer Sunset Concert Series.
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