By Peter Tromp
Oh, what a night. Cape Town Opera got their 15th year celebrations off to a rocking start over the weekend with Welsh star attraction Bryn Terfel almost effortlessly capturing the collective imagination of opera lovers in the city. It was a night that even non-opera buffs would have enjoyed, as there wasn’t anything unapproachable, or hoity-toity about the affair. Although stylishly presented, the entire evening had a down to earth feel.
This was reflected in Terfel’s own stage presence. He almost unassumingly entered proceedings after the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Wales Millennium Centre Only Kids Aloud had set the stage with the opening two performances. It didn’t take long however for his quality to become apparent. When the baritone started on the third song in the evening’s repertoire – ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’ from Donizetti’s comic opera ‘L’elisir d’amore’ (‘The Elixir of Love’) – jaws dropped all over the place, with Terfel exuding charm and humour in abundance as the crackpot Doctor Dulcamara character.
The highlight of the evening was the duet ‘Quanto amore’, also from ‘L’elisir d’amore’, performed by Terfel and the UCT Opera School’s Noluvuyiso Mpofu. It earned an instant standing ovation from the audience. (I was seated next to Anthony Steward Head of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Little Britain’ fame and the actor literally jumped to his feet to applaud.) The duo shared wonderful chemistry together and here’s hoping that Cape Town Opera makes a full blown version of the opera starring these two a reality.
It wasn’t all about that man Terfel, though. The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra turns 100 this year, and they were sublime throughout, especially when accompanying Terfel in a jaw dropping performance of Wagner’s ‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’ from ‘Tannhäuser’, which caused goose pimples all around.
‘Bryn Terfel in Concert’ contained almost everything one would want from a showcase of this calibre. This collaboration between Cape Town Opera and the Wales Millennium Centre – turning 10 this year and honoured on the evening as well – was a smashing success and bodes very well for a stellar 2014 opera programme.