Ensemble Studio tenors, like saints’ noses, only seem to come in multipacks these days. There are four of them until the end of the season and today they were all on show in the RBA. It was clearly a popular move as the good folks were lined up outside almost to Richmond Street before the doors opened and they didn’t all get in. Maybe it was the beards. Are bearded tenors the new black? The program was fairly predictable. Andrew Haji , Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and Aaron Sheppard each gave us a well known and popular aria, with two from Charles Sy, before we got to the inevitable arrangements for four voices of three Neapolitan songs and, of course, the encores.
Charles kicked things off with La donna è mobile. He did pretty well with this far from straightforward piece and I really liked Jennifer Szeto’s rather cheeky accompaniment. Also, nice tie Mr Sy. Jean-Philippe did rather well with a heartfelt version of Tosti’s Non t’amo più. He’s very expressive. Perhaps to make up for his beard not really being quite up to the standard of the others. Then it was crowd favourite Mr. Haji (who also sports the most impressive beard. Verdi would be pleased to see that he has eschewed the more Germanic style of facial hair favoured by his boss in favour of something more flamboyantly Mediterranean). We got a ridiculously easy sounding Una furtiva lagrima. It was just so comfortable even during the tricky runs near the end, and the money notes were, well, on the money. It was like watching an All Blacks centre offloading out of the back of the hand. You just look and gulp. Aaron had the unenviable task of following this. He sang La Barcheta from Hahn’s Venezia. This is the one piece on the program that was new to me. It’s typical Hahn; gently tuneful and well suited to Aaron’s voice which seems to be going through a transition right now. It’s sounding sweet and accurate but not very operatic. It’s more like a musical theatre voice right now and I’m curious to see where it goes. Can one do musical theatre in a beard? Charles rounded the first half off with a very clean Dein ist mein ganzes Herz.
After all this heavy, serious stuff some light relief was obviously called for and, when the boys reappeared with Hyejin Kwon at the piano, we got it. Yes there were those Neapolitan songs suitably arranged and carried off with musical skill and good humour but, you know, there’s a Monty Python line about gondolas. As a first encore we got what looked turning into the mixed martial arts version of O sole mio but in the end no serious damage was done. And yes, we finished up with Nessun Dorma. So, Franz-Josef Selig singing Winterreise it was not, but it was a fun way to spend a sunny lunchtime in the RBA.
Photo credit: Lara Hintelmann