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Sierra Heads Safe Opera Celebration

By C. Wall
The lockdown has accustomed us to seeing yesterday’s hot-ticket live performance streamed free to our portable Internet devices, either to boost our collective morale, or to solicit donations from beleaguered artistic communities.

This year’s Celebration of Opera, broadcast by GBC on the eve and afternoon of National Day, succeeded in serving both public and artists, while still looking distinctly odd.

Nadine Sierra is a rising star soprano I can scarcely imagine in Gibraltar without all those cancelled operas.

Her voice glows like a shiny new flute, a penetrating phrase from each poised breath.

Her effortless coloratura in the opening “Je veux vivre” added a flirtatious undercurrent to Juliet’s innocent enthusiasm.

One of Sierra’s signature pieces, “Melodia Sentimental” from Villa-Lobos, was on the operatic end of interpretation, passionate and expansive, without pushing the sentiment. Her “O mio babbino caro” showed a dreamy warmth untouched by comic irony, while her feisty “Mi chiamo Mimi” suggests a fresh Bohème. In “Caro nome”, from Sierra’s beloved Rigoletto, she moved tears through smiling teeth.

Boyish tenor Xabier Anduaga boldly opened with “Ah! mes amis” of the many high Cs, delivered with the radiant confidence of a champion hurdler strolling through the qualifying heats. “Por el humo se sabe” showed a smooth proficiency with Zarzuela standards, though the bel canto of “Una furtiva lagrima” showed his voice to its full strength. Lara’s “Granada” demonstrated a remarkably mature tone, and “No puede ser” favoured musicality over expression.

Sadly, the duets were far less successful than the arias. The close-ups in “Una parola o Adina” showed a gulf between the acting styles, and the cameras made the social distancing between these photogenic singers look unnecessarily static. Still, Donizetti favours both voices, and “Verranno a te sull'aure” hit all the right notes Piano accompanist David Aronson seemed below his reliable best.

Paula Latin directed the GBC team, featuring a variety of camera angles and movements, some more rewarding than others. Generous lighting occasionally made the Convent Ballroom look exotic, while the view through the view through the proscenium arch overloaded my screen’s palette, and the canned applause was too cold to answer some lovely performances. I would have preferred a more intimate filming, though perhaps we need some excess after the deluge of stay-at-home broadcasts.

A Celebration of Opera, from the Ministry of Culture, Gibraltar Cultural Services and the Gibraltar Philharmonic Society, can still be seen on gbc.gi.