• Written by Daniela Kaleva, Associate Head Research and Scholarship, Australian Institute of Music
This new production of Farnace overwhelms with delight. Brett Boardman/Pinchgut Opera

Review: Farnace, composed by Vivaldi, Pinchgut Opera

When a performance of Farnace was cancelled at the theatre of Ferrara after the artistic failure of Vivaldi’s opera Siroe re di Persia in December 1738, Vivaldi’s chance to have his favourite opera performed in one of the top theatres in Europe evaporated.

He defended his operatic writing, blaming the harpsichordist for Siroe’s poor reception. It didn’t matter. Farnace was cancelled; and then largely forgotten.

Newly revived in Sydney, this ambitious undertaking of Pinchgut Opera artistic director Erin Helyard demonstrates that Farnace is a masterpiece of 18th century Venetian opera.

Antonio Lucchini’s libretto explores honour and love in the aftermath of war in Pontus, a kingdom on the threshold of Europe and Asia: a region currently experiencing unrest, bringing this story too close for comfort.

The defeat of Farnace (Christopher Lowrey), King of Pontus, presents impossible dilemmas for him and his family. Farnace asks his wife, Tamiri (Helen Sherman), to kill their son and then herself to save them from the dishonour and torture in the hands of their enemies.

Farnace asks his wife to kill their son, to save them from dishonour. Brett Boardman/Pinchgut Opera

Leading from the harpsichord, Helyard casts his magic spell over the orchestra, continuo players, and singers with depth and nuance. The spirited performance of Orchestra of the Antipodes is marked by brilliance of attack, rhythmic dynamism, and finesse of phrasing.

The audience is overwhelmed by excitement, astonishment and delight.

A triumph of a production

Vivaldi’s ingenuity lies in virtuosic melodic writing and instrumental colours. Horns, played by Doreé Dixon and Carla Blackwood, bring out the military elements of the narrative. Mikaela Oberg’s flute adorns Tamiri’s outpouring of love and loyalty in “Sol da te, mio dolce amore” (Only in you my sweet love).

Brought into the present and located in a prison vault, danger and death is palpable. Hanging corpses haunt the stage with eerie swaying. Mark Gaal’s direction brings rhythm to the narrative: punctuating slams of the upstage double door, and intensifying movement on stage during the repeat of the first section of the arias.

The presence of a child actor (Matthew Simon) and two teenage soldiers (Jack Curry and Joshua Hammond) makes the story even more true to present day guerrilla warfare.

Corpses hang above the stage. Brett Boardman/Pinchgut Opera

Unusually for opera, three strong women are central to this fable.

Love’s virtue and patience are embodied by Tamiri, sung with feeling by Sherman, although she needs to find a better connection with the character in the intricacies of the Italian prosody. Sherman’s rendition of the flute obbligato aria is a highlight.

Courage and loyalty are represented by Farnace’s sister Selinda, given zest and allure by Taryn Fiebig.

Berenice is destructive in her rage, portrayed with macho histrionics and a steely high register by Jacqueline Dark, who achieves great contrast with unexpected vocal tenderness in Berenice’s surrender and forgiveness at the end of the opera.

Gilade is sung by Max Riebl with an exquisite countertenor tone and agility. Riebl sparkles in the arias, adorned with magnificent cadenzas.

Lowrey brings unprecedented intensity to his performance. His full-bodied countertenor voice is eloquent and heartbreakingly truthful in the plight of the noble king.

The symbiosis of sonic and visual expression of emotion came to a climax in the aria “Gelido in ogni vena” (Frosty in every vein). Lowrey stands in spotlight. Falling snowflakes reference the chilled chords from the Winter movement of the Four Seasons concerto.

Gelido in ogni vena’ (Frosty in every vein) is a highlight of sonic and visual expression. Brett Boardman/Pinchgut Opera

Lowrey uses vocal colour to achieve dramatic effect, expressing the profound grief of a father who ordered the death of his son. This is one of the most poignant opera scenes I have ever experienced.

Farnace is the best revival production by Pinchgut Opera yet, demonstrating high standards of historically informed practice, vibrancy and subtlety of staging. Vivaldi’s disappointment has been transformed into a triumph almost three centuries later, on the other side of the globe by an ensemble of baroque experts that prides itself on reviving forgotten operatic gems for a modern audience.

Farnace plays at City Recital Hall, Sydney, until December 10.

Daniela Kaleva ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son poste universitaire.

Authors: Daniela Kaleva, Associate Head Research and Scholarship, Australian Institute of Music

Read more http://theconversation.com/one-of-the-most-poignant-opera-scenes-i-have-ever-experienced-pinchguts-farnace-126586

All You Need to Know About Trenchless Technology

For many years, the traditional sewerage lines and pipe developments were not enough due to the long wait and cracking. The traditional sewer pipe repairs involved cracking the earth to find the par...

News Company - avatar News Company

Before we rush to rebuild after fires, we need to think about where and how

A primary school in East Gippsland was burnt down in the current bushfire crisis. While Premier Daniel Andrews immediately committed to rebuilding the school as it was, media reported the local CFA ca...

Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle - avatar Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

Australian sea lions are declining. Using drones to check their health can help us understand why

Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) are one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world and they are declining. Jarrod Hodgson, CC BY-NDAustralian sea lions are in trouble. Their population has never rec...

Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide - avatar Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide

With costs approaching $100 billion, the fires are Australia's costliest natural disaster

It’s hard to estimate the eventual economic cost of Australia’s 2019-20 megafires, partly because they are still underway, and partly because it is hard to know the cost to attribute to de...

Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University - avatar Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University

In cases of cardiac arrest, time is everything. Community responders can save lives

Cardiac arrest can occur with little or no warning in people who were previously healthy, including young people. From shutterstock.comEach year more than 24,000 Australians experience a sudden cardia...

Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University - avatar Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University

So the government gave sports grants to marginal seats. What happens now?

When Australians pay their income tax, they assume the money is going to areas of the community that need it, rather than being used by the government to shore up votes for the next election. This is...

Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University - avatar Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

The Olympics have always been a platform for protest. Banning hand gestures and kneeling ignores their history

It is the year of the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee was quickly out of the blocks with new guidelines regarding athlete protests. The IOC is worried the biggest stories of...

David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University - avatar David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Where Can You Get Weed By Ordering It Online?

Nowadays, everyone wants to get their hands on some weed. Marijuana has become legalized in a lot of countries worldwide. People wait in lines for days to buy some. You couldn’t have imagined that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson, the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital. A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of AustraliaIn this series, we look at under...

Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW - avatar Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company