On Sunday 22 December, Pascal Herington, the young tenor, who has sung a number of solo gigs with Grads, gave a farewell concert before going to Berlin next year, with a view to launching his solo career. The venue was St Canice’s Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bay, where Pascal is clearly an active and popular member of the parish community. To support him, Pascal had invited a number of leading young singers to participate in the concert. These included no less than four young artists, who have appeared with us: Rachel Bate (soprano), winner of the Joan Carden Award (JCA) in 2010, Anna Dowsley (mezzo), honorably mentioned in the JCA in 2012, Alexander Knight (baritone), who sang the title role in our Paulus in 2012, and Michael Curtain, the very talented rehearsal pianist of our Chamber Choir.
Because of these connections to our Choir, a number of our members attended, including Evelyne de Clercq (President), Marilyn Gosling (Soloist Liaison Manager), and sopranos Dawn Plasto, who lives locally, and Janette McDonnell, who is also not far away. Another notable member of the audience was the Governor, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Marie Bashir AC, CVO, whose presence confirmed her love of music and interest in encouraging young artists (Pascal told us that he and the Governor had got to know each other at one of our concerts).
The concert was musically delightful. It was a particular pleasure to hear Rachel Bate again after a couple of years, during which she had an attachment with the Cologne Opera. Rachel is having a baby in March and doing the occasional concert in Sydney. She hopes to return to Europe after the baby is settled. She gave an outstanding performance of Un bel di, from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and made an excellent impression in a number of concerted items, including a duet with baritone Javier Vilarino in Bess, You is my woman now from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It would be very good for the Choir to have Rachel sing with us again before long.
Anna Dowsley played the role of Dorabella in a couple of excerpts from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. She has played this role on the stage in Japan, and her experience in it shone through. Anna also performed a solo item, Jaegerin, schlau in sinn, from Martha by Flotow, with great flair and vocal athleticism, and sang with great energy in concerted items. It will be fascinating to watch the progress she makes next year, as a Young Artist with Opera Australia
Pascal himself was concerned primarily to perform the role of playmaker and mixmaster. He appeared in a large number of concerted items, even playing the violin in O waly waly to Emily Edmonds’s solo and in Richard Stauss’s Morgen to Javier Vilarino’s solo. But in his big solo number, the famous Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo, Pascal achieved a truly memorable performance
Your correspondent has heard Alexander Knight give accomplished performances in a range of Romantic and Baroque repertoire. On this occasion, he additionally showed his capabilities in contemporary music, an aria from Nixon in China by John Adams, where, typically, he was fully convincing. Alexander and Pascal also gave a fine account of themselves in a duet from Britten’s War Requiem. Alexander also played the role of the Count in the finale of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and made the most of the Count’s plea for forgiveness, ‘Contessa, perdona’, which marks the start of the close of the action in the opera. This fine young singer is surely due to take out a major national singing prize soon. Let’s hope 2014 is the year.
Throughout proceedings, Michael Curtain played with technical precision and great musicality in a great range of styles, from Baroque to jazz to minimalism, showing how fortunate the Choir is in having him at our service.
All but one of the singers at Pascal’s farewell are students of Maree Ryan, the head of the Conservatorium’s Opera and Vocal Studies Unit, who, as Pascal’s teacher, was present. Since the Choir launched the JCA in 2004, Maree has introduced a number of young singers to us, which has been of great value to the Choir and, we believe very useful for their development. The quality of the work on show at Pascal’s farewell was a powerful reminder of the mutual benefit the JCA has delivered to both organizations.
We wish Pascal Herington all the best in this next stage of his artistic development.