- Helen Gramotnev
OPERA QUEENSLAND’S POULENC
This opening concert to Opera Queensland’s Studio Series brings together a heart-warming combination of Irena Lisyuk’s enchanting soprano and Alex Raineri’s dexterous pianism. Poulenc: an ode to my favourite composer features a selection of songs for piano and voice written by Francis Poulenc to various French poems. The concert is curated by Irena herself, reflecting a very personal journey through her music career, while providing the audience with an insightful look into the French composer’s unique peculiarities.
The concert opens with Voyage à Paris – a song written to the words of Picasso’s friend and poet Guillaume Apollinaire about leaving your worries behind and heading to Paris to experience its beauty and excitement. An instant mood-setter for an engaging and heart-warming experience!
After a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria, comes a collection of songs inspired by childhood: beautiful absurdities, short and sweet poems put to equally colourful music. My favourite is Quelle Aventure (translated: What an adventure!) – a song about a flee pulling a cart with an elephant in it, sucking on a tube of jam!
The clash of the sublime and the ridiculous is the common thread throughout this concert. In the words of Lisyuk herself, “Poulenc’s pieces are art that help you understand the poetry in the songs”. The divine musicality of Poulenc’s compositions is balanced by the absurdity of the scenarios of the song’s plot lines. My personal favourite is Nous voulons un petite sœur (translated: We want a little sister), in which seventeen sisters keep asking for a “round and chubby” baby sibling for Christmas.
Lisyuk demonstrates a natural ability to colour, shade, and highlight the whimsical nuances of each song, bringing them to life like little quirky pieces of theatre. Her warmth and enthusiasm are perfectly matched by Raineri’s sensitive touch on the piano. Poulenc’s Improvisation #15 in C minor – Homage to Edith Piaf not only is a chance for this prolific performer to showcase his skills, but also an opportunity to show off Opera Queensland’s new Shigeru Kawai concert grand piano, its warmth and its perfectly rounded and balanced sound.
Leaving the best for last, the concert ends with Les chemins de l’amour (translated: The ways of love”) – a waltz to ensure the audience leaves the auditorium on a high, perhaps dancing all the way home!