Wellington's Amazing Tom and Izzie Show!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2013-07-29 23:01

As an unapologetic dinosaur I spend a lot of time in despair over Generation Airhead—that is, just about all "people" under 30, aliens in human guise who don't read, can't speak, and shuffle around like zombies to the jungle beat of headbanging in their iPods. With what unmitigated astonishment and pleasure, then, did I take in Te Koki School of Music's (under-30s, students) presentation of Verdi's Il Corsaro on Sunday afternoon. For once, Generation Airhead's favoured accolade, "awesome," could be employed with impunity.

Based on an epic poem by Byron, Il Corsaro is preposterous, as every opera should be. It begins with a storm and ends with a suicide. Two suicides, in fact—one relatively sedate, the other, one of those leaps from a great height that puts one in mind of the famed trampoline that caused a certain prima donna to keep reappearing when she was supposedly dead and splattered. Such were the verve and commitment with which the students attended to their tasks that suspension of disbelief was not at all difficult, and many an audience eye was moist by opera's end. That's as it should be too.

All soloists acquitted themselves creditably, but it would be remiss of me not to single out tenor Thomas Atkins (Corrado) and soprano Isabella Moore (Gulnara). Dominion Post critic John Button has already used the word "stunning" of Atkins, and he's right. This is a voice destined for a huge career. As I observed to a baritone friend of mine in the chorus, Tom sounds a lot like Domingo, except that his top is better. He sings with exceptional intelligence, displaying a masterful "covering" technique in that upper register, and a suitably operatic level of passion as well. He was beyond stunning. Look out, Simon O'Neill! Look out Rolando and Juan Diego and ... well, given the relative dearth of big-name tenors in the world right now, expect the name Thomas Atkins to be helping fill the void quite soon.

And look out Anna Netrebko! The power, range and beauty of Isabella Moore's voice make it, too, one that will conquer the world. Verdi was not kind to prima donnas, but Isabella rose to his challenges fearlessly and triumphantly. Early on I could sense a High E-flat was imminent, and wondered if Ms Moore would execute it with her characteristic arrow-accurate pitch. She didn't quite, and I assume she knew it since she didn't linger on it ... but this is mere carping. Every other note was a gem, rich, round, yet penetrating. Just when we thought another earthquake was rumbling the Opera House, we were relieved to realise it was Isabella's voice!

These two stars are abundantly endowed with looks, brains and voices. As an even more pre-historic dinosaur in years to come, I shall observe the success that undoubtedly awaits them and think nostalgically of their magnificent fledgling efforts in Il Corsaro.

I shed a quiet tear also to read in the programme notes that Thomas was winner of the Robin Dumbell Memorial Cup at last year's Wellington Aria Competition. I was a pupil of Robin—we pupils were known collectively as the "Dumbell Darlings"—during the 1970s, having first heard him sing in Tales of Hoffmann and Showboat the decade before. I adored his voice, and am about to get my old LPs of the Hoffmann transferred to CD, so soon it will be enriching my life again.

Now, a note for anyone in and around Wellington reading this: there's one more performance of Corsaro, tonight (Tuesday July 30). You can probably still get tickets. It's the alternate cast, but I'm reliably informed they too are no slouches. If you can go, do. You won't regret it. Two hours of magic melody and mad melodrama, deliciously performed by admirable specimens of young humanity (not an airhead in sight!). I congratulate Te Koki New Zealand School of Music, director Sara Brodie, conductor Kenneth Young and everybody else involved in this stellar production.