For the Sunday Morning Coffee Concert at Christ Church Cathedral, the soprano Sylvia O’Brien wowed an audience with confidence, soaring ability and a La Traviata sequence to die for.
At the outset the programme didn’t seem all that appealing for a Spring morning concert, advertised as Seven Deadly Sins Of Opera. Then at forty minutes to noon she had not arrived and her mobile was off, Concert Manager, Lynn Cahill, was doing her fall-back position mantra but soprano and accompanist Hanna Shybayeva arrived. It was hard to know who was more flustered. The pianist had a quick cigarette outside the side door and as Sylvia O’Brien unloaded stuff from her car, a bag spilled out onto the pavement.
Hardly time for a sound check and the programme sniffily said – Please do not turn the pages until the music is over. The choices seemed stuffy and heady for a pre-lunch gig and I gave up trying to match the arias to the sins. Apparently suicide is considered Sloth and Wrath is revenge.
But from the moment O’Brien launched into Vedrai Carino and later another Mozart extract from Don Gio, the audience warmed to her. Hanna Shybayeva was more than an accompanist and her Flying Dutchman piece was sockaroony good.
Then she announced some changes in the programme and an alarm sounded outside and continued for over ten minutes. O’Brien did not ignore it but hoped it wasn’t her car and neither did she throw a diva tantrum. No, she just sang louder and better and the repeating Mysterioso from Traviata, was balm to the soul. What a performance.
Shybayeva ignored the alarm and made Gounod’s Jewel Aria of Margerethe, a gem of piano playing. O’Brien delivered a deathly and impressive Vissi d’Arte from Tosca and finished in a vocal flouorish with a jazzy and Fledermaus influenced song from Bernstein’s, Candice – Glitter and Be Gay.