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Linz's New Book
Is Edward Snowden a hero?
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Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2013-05-06 01:21
Squillo, the Italians call it, the piercing quality in a voice that enables it to cut across an orchestra, the aural equivalent of a laser beam; squillo is what the Welshman Bryn Terfel has in abundance, as he demonstrated on Friday night at the acoustically challenging Michael Fowler Centre. From the opening bars of Wagner's Song to the Evening Star, and especially through the more bombastic Wagner that followed, Mr Terfel made it resonantly obvious that his is one of the great voices of our time, and not even the formidable force of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in full furore can drown it out. His most shimmering pianissimi in the Tannhauser were clearly audible; in full cry he was close to overwhelming.
Tickets to "A Gala Evening"—in effect an evening of two halves, heavy and light—were not cheap, but as the glorious tones poured forth from this six-foot-three colossus, one knew they were worth every mortgage. As indicated, he sang Star of Eve exquisitely; one assumes he sang the subsequent Wagner equally well, but since it was Wagner of the melody-free variety, one couldn't be quite sure and it didn't really matter. Mr Terfel certainly made some startlingly impressive noises.
Not just squillo does Bryn have in spades, but showmanship. Flair and humour enlivened not only his singing but his easy banter with the audience, thoroughly rehearsed though it was. When he performed Son lo Spirito from Mefistofele, he let rip with a devilish two-finger whistle every bit as penetrating as his voice. When he came to Welsh, Irish and musical comedy standards, he wove magic. One of the encores (which were equally well rehearsed), All through the Night, suddenly turned into Pokarekare Ana, to the audience's great delight.
Personally, I wanted just a little bit more in that second half. Mr Terfel's top pinged and his bottom rumbled, but he never ventured really high or really low. An Ol' Man River in the key of C, with the dominant (G) as the penultimate note, would have been a two-octave thriller, but no such showcase was on offer. Oh What a Beautiful Morning, with choral back-up from orchestra and audience, was a gem, but an easy one. As my baritone companion and I (bass-baritone) can attest from our lusty participation in said back-up, it didn't test his range at all. And given that Carousel is one of Mr Terfel's specialties, where was the Soliloquy, or If I Loved You? Where for that matter was Land of my Fathers?!
But these are minor grumbles. When it was over, encountering the hideous, hate-driven, headbanging hysteria that overtakes Courtenay Place at night, one was just grateful for a glimpse of the contrasting universe the likes of Bryn Terfel bring to us, at once impeccably civilised, excruciatingly cerebral ... and blazingly, positively passionate.
It is said that at the end of evenings such as this Mr Terfel locks himself away with a heavy red. I have it on good authority that on this occasion in the first instance he repaired to the Welsh watering hole that used to be the Taj Mahal at the end of the Place—but he didn't stay long. If he did indeed then lock himself away with a heavy red, I hope it was the gutsiest Aussie Shiraz in the hotel. The wondrous Welshman had earned it.
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