Thunder clouds were hovering when the annual Opera in the Vineyards event was presented for the nineteenth time at the Roche Estate in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales on the weekend of October 8, 2016.
But the weather gods were smiling. The rain mainly held off and opera enthusiasts were able to enjoy a fine night of opera tunes while sipping some very fine wines from the Roche Estate collection.
A stellar cast of four singers – Sopranos Natalie Aroyan and Amelia Farrugia and tenors David Hobson and Richard Troxell from the USA – accompanied by The Metropolitan Orchestra and conducted by Maestro Brian Castle-Onion, held the audience literally in the palm of their hand all evening.
Castle-Onion was a wonderful emcee, regaling the audience with funny anecdotes and background material to the works on the program in such an endearing and entertaining way that you really did feel as if he was talking only to you, over a glass a wine.
The program included some the greatest hits of opera, by some of its greatest composers, including Austrian wonder Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).
Act I included Una parola, o Adina and Una furtiva lagrima from L’Eliser D’Amore by the Italian Domenico Donizetti (1797 – 1848), La fleur que tu m’avais jetée from French composer Georges Bizet’s stunning Carmen, with Vogliatemi bene from the sublime Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).
If Act I was very good, Act 2 was spectacular.
Opening with the famous Prelude to Act One from Bizet’s Carmen, David Hobson stole the show with the next item, La donna è mobile from Rigoletto.
Walking down into the audience, this consummate performer interacted with delighted audience members as he sang.
Amelia Farrugia gave a stunningly beautiful rendition of Dôme épais from Lakme by French composer Leo Delibes (1836-1891), while in the finale all four vocalists sang their hearts out in a wondrous version of Nessun dorma from Turandot by Italy’s great Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).
We were treated to two encores: Libiamo from La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and That’s Amore by popular American composer and lyricist for film Harry Warren (born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna (1893-1981), whose many ‘hit’ songs have always been far more famous than ‘the invisible man’ who composed them.
Enjoy a few highlights
Next year’s Opera in the Vineyards will take place on Saturday, 21 October 2017 – Save the date!
Meldi Arkinstall, Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Images: With thanks to Amelia Farrugia