In stark contrast to the previous night’s Rocky Horror Show, Friday evening I attended an evening of opera and operetta, featuring Geoffrey Butler, a friend of mine who is a professional tenor. Geoff has a powerful voice, and my favourite memory of him is during one rather drunken dinner party at my place years ago when he serenaded us with Italian arias — with the windows open, he would have been heard for blocks around.
Friday’s performance, also featuring the soprano Helena Holl and bass-baritone Jan Vaculik, and accompanied by Mila Pashanova on piano, had two very different parts. The first half was six arias and scenes from Bizet’s Carmen, with two piano intermezzos tossed in. The singers dressed in costume and actually acted out the scenes as opposed to just singing the arias — a bit strange considering that it was performed at Christ Church Deer Park, but entertaining nonetheless. The second half was two songs from musicals, and seven selections of Viennese operetta by Emmerich Kalman (Die Csárdásfürstin, Die Zirkusprinzessin and Countess Maritza), who was actually Hungarian but did his well-known composing in Vienna. Damir, who is from eastern Croatia very close to the Hungarian border, commented afterwards on the use of the Hungarian Csárdás folk dance forms in the operettas.
I was amazed at the number of Russians and eastern Europeans in the audience, although with a Russian soprano, a Russian pianist and a Czech (I think) bass-baritone, it’s not that much of a surprise.