- Helen Gramotnev
EASTERN PROMISES FULFILLED!
The stars align and magic happens whenever Alexandra Flood (soprano) and Alex Raineri (piano) come together to share music close to their hearts.
The duo’s choices are characterized by the freshness of the music they present to their audiences. The commentary, which always accompanies their recitals, creates a helpful setting for their concerts. You can be sure that you will not be confused by the music, even if you are not an opera buff.
Opera Queensland’s Eastern Promises deliver even more than promised. A rich program exploring the interpretations of eastern melodies and harmonic structures by modern and contemporary composers of western music takes us through over a century’s worth of operatic compositions.
The concert, carefully curated by Raineri and Flood, begins in the French modernism, with three Ariettes oubliées (Forgotten Airs) by Claude Debussy. Written in 1886 based on poems by Paul Verlaine, the songs set the structures for all of Debussy’s future vocal music. This first section of French music, including Maurice Ravel’s “Asie” from Shéhérazade, portrays the curiosity associated with the Eastern melodies, and how composers interpreted their imagination of it, as interpreted from painting, objects, and word of mouth.
The concert moves on to the eastern European renditions, with the music of Karol Szymanowski, Antonín Dvořák, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff. The Slavic influences (aptly echoed in the performers’ costumes) bring the warmth and the longing associated with the Slavic folklore, while the resolve of the melodic harmonies convey the resolute nature of Slavic characters. The vocal gymnastics give Flood the opportunity to demonstrate the control, the power, and the depth of her voice, rarely heard outside large scale opera houses.
The final section of the concert brings about the resolution. With contemporary anglophone music from Jake Heggie, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Kate Miller-Heidke and Lally Katz, the highlight is the final piece called “Where?” from The Rabbits. It laments the loss of the Australian landscape to the rabbits introduced through colonialization. Looking back to the west, “Where?” is a contemplation of the musical journeys between east and west, as well as the contemplation of the bigger issues that touch us even today.
How lucky we are in Brisbane to be able to experience a concert of arias structured with so much thought and care to present a poignant story of the interpretations of eastern culture and music as genuinely seen by composers over the past century. The perfect balance of piano and voice, each artist showcases a complete performance. But when brought together, Alexandra Flood and Alex Raineri’s music blooms with extra life, texture, and dimension. This is the strength of the collaboration between the two artists, who bring together their respective talents and creative visions, to move, to soothe, and to inspire their audiences.