Queensland Symphony Opera Diary: Opera Gala Glitters Bright

dane lam queensland symphony Orchestra
Images: Peter Wallis

Well, I’d say opera is making a comeback, at least for one of its traditional audiences, gay men. That’s if the proportion of hunks in sharp suits at Queensland Symphony’s Opera Gala is anything to go by. However, no one cuts a finer figure than conductor Dane Lam, very suave with just a sprinkling of salt in his pepper-black hair. (And boys, take note how a well-tailored cut can show off all that leg work in the gym.)

The soloists weren’t far behind. The chaps modelled elegant white- and black-tie tux styles while the ladies sported enough bling to satisfy anyone’s longing for feminine glamour, no matter what gender box you tick. Chorus-mistress Emily Cox even appeared for a final bow in black satin blazoned with rhinestones in a sexy V-design.

Everyone’s favourite same-sex duets

But this was just the icing on a luxurious cake. Or maybe trifle is a better comparison, as it was full of gorgeous chunks from some of the best-loved operas in the repertory. We got what are probably everyone’s favourite same-sex duets: The Pearl Fishers’ Au fond du temple saint for the gents, and for the girls the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman. Heterosexuals were not forgotten, however, as the programme’s first coupling gave us Madama Butterfly’s ravishing wedding night scene.

The solo singers were a distinguished bunch, all internationally active artists. Soprano Natalie Aroyan used her searing upper extension to moving effect, especially in Santuzza’s heartfelt cries to God. As for mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble, I love that someone can sound as casual as a Dalby cattle farmer when she speaks, then slink through Carmen’s Habanera in a voice as rich as black cherry jam.

Tenor Diego Torre gave us a more than respectable account of William Tell’s tenor tour-de-force, one of the most punishing ever written. He sailed through the stratosphere without a single crack. Actually, all the singers exhibited ringing top notes, but perhaps those of baritone José Carbó were the most purely beautiful as well as being full of passion. As Carmen’s Toreador, he brought plenty of swagger to his bullfighter’s brag of an aria.

The Brisbane Chorale

The Brisbane Chorale was solid throughout. If they lacked the last ounce of oomph a pack of professional opera singers would have given us, they rose magnificently to the challenge of the concert’s finale, the glorious Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana.

Our own Queensland Symphony Orchestra was its usual spectacular self. We’re so blessed to have this band of expert and enthusiastic musicians to breathe life into the classics all year round. Their collective chops were on full display in the William Tell overture, better known as the theme to TV’s The Lone Ranger. That last section, gran Dio! Scurrying strings, blasting brass, chattering winds, crashing percussion, and never a missed cue. Plus they supplied all the colour and sensuality you could ask for in the more intimate moments.

And at the heart of it all was maestro Dane Lam, also the concert’s MC. He was great at setting the scene for each selection, explaining the story so even someone who’d never been to an opera could feel the magic of song fused with the story. And how joyous to see so accomplished a conductor so uninhibited! Dane Lam was right in there, leading, urging, even at times mouthing along to the words with the soloists. He’s also the first conductor I’ve ever seen not only jump in the air but land on the beat!

QSO’s next concerts are this Friday 17 & Saturday 18 June. Tickets and more information here.


Mascagni – Hymn to the Sun from Iris

Puccini – Humming Chorus (coro a bocca chiusa) from Madama Butterfly

Puccini – Bimba dagli occhi pieni de malia (Love Duet) from Madama Butterfly

Smyth – Act 2 Scene 3, Mark not tonight! from The Wreckers

Bizet – Au fond du temple saint from The Pearl Fishers

Verdi – Messa da requiem IV. Sanctus

Verdi – Triumphal March from Aida

Verdi – O terra addio (Tomb Scene) from Aida

Rossini – Overture from William Tell

Rossini – Asile hereditaire (recit and aria) from William Tell

Leoncavallo – Prologue from I Pagliacci

Offenbach – Belle Nuit (Barcarolle) from Tales of Hoffmann

Bizet – Habanera “L’amour est un oiseau” from Carmen

Bizet – Votre toast/ Toreador, en garde! (Toreador Song) from Carmen

Mascagni – Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana

Encore: Verdi – Quartet fro Rigoletto

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