If there’s one thing more powerful than a deep baritone or stunning soprano voice in full flight, it’s when dozens of voices combine to sing together in perfect harmony. An operatic chorus can raise the roof – and opera composers use them to great effect.
“The surround-sound effect is uniquely resonant,” explained Robert Mitchell, a veteran performer who has sung in the Opera Australia Chorus for more than 40 years. “The music takes on a quality of its own which is more than the sum of our individual voices.”
A Mass of Voices
Some of the most famous moments in popular operas are moments coloured by a mass of voices. The “Humming Chorus” in Madama Butterfly. The “Slave Chorus” in Nabucco. The offstage mourning that studs the famous tenor aria “Nessun Dorma”, from Turandot. The choral splendour behind Scarpia’s “Te Deum” in Tosca.
Despite these famous pieces, it is a rare chance indeed to hear an Opera Chorus in concert: a mass of voices taking centre stage. So when it came time to putting together the program for the upcoming Ring Festival, Opera Australia’s Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini was quick to suggest the Opera Australia Chorus perform in concert.
“I’m very proud that Melbourne audiences will have an opportunity to hear the Opera Australia Chorus on stage in their own right,” he said. “They are one of the world’s great Opera Chorus ensembles and it’s important we shine the spotlight on them. They are part of what makes our productions so good. These concerts will be a wonderful opportunity to hear them in all their glory!
A Unique Sound
Widely acknowledged as one of the best in the business, the Opera Australia Chorus is routinely praised for their dynamics and tone, acting cameos and perfect diction. This year, for the first time, Melbourne audiences have a chance to hear Australia’s largest professional full-time Chorus in concert: singing some of the most spectacular choral passages in the operatic canon.
The intimate acoustics of the Elizabeth Murdoch Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre will be a magnificent space to hear the beauty and power of the OA Chorus ring out.
“On stage, not only are we making the most beautiful sound that we can, we’re also fully engaged in the dramatic moment,” Mitchell said. “That adds extra significance to the meaning of the text, and I think in turn moves the audience. Being inside that sound can be a very emotional experience.”
Wagner Tannhäuser Pilgrim’s Chorus (Beglückt darf nun dich, o Heimat, Ich schauen…)
Wagner Der fliegende Holländer Spinning Chorus (“Summ’ und brumm’”, du gutes Rädchen)
Verdi Macbeth Chorus of Assassins (Chi v’impose unirvi a noi)
Verdi Macbeth Chorus of Scottish Refugees (Patria oppressa!)
Verdi Aida Triumphal March
Wagner Parsifal “Zum letzten Liebesmahle”
Puccini Madama Butterfly Humming Chorus
Verdi Il Trovatore Anvil Chorus
Bizet Carmen Cigarette Girls Chorus
Bizet Carmen “Les voici la Quadrille”
Verdi Nabucco Chorus of Hebrew Slaves
Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana Easter Hymn
Strauss Die Fledermaus “Sing to love”
Venue: Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
Dates: Thursday 21 & 28 November, 7.30pm
Cost: $45 standard, $39 concession
Tickets: melbournerecital.com.au or 03 9699 3333
Find Out More
This six-minute video offers plenty of insight into the Opera Australia Chorus, made during the rehearsal period for 2012’s Turandot
Made famous by Luciano Pavarotti, “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot is probably the world’s most famous aria. But it’s not all about the tenor – the off-stage Chorus provide a wonderful interlude.
Sung here by Rosario La Spina and the Opera Australia Chorus