For a moment, I thought it was my imagination, but it wasn’t. During Franz Lehar’s song Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß several members of the audience, especially those of a Germanic disposition, were audibly humming along with the tune. It was like being in the waiting scene from Madama Butterfly. But soprano soloist Nattida Gumchai was unfazed and actually seemed to enjoy the unexpected chorus. Not surprising really, because despite her youth, Nattida is an experienced and accomplished singer.
Born in 1989, Nattida started singing lessons at the age of thirteen and by seventeen was singing on original soundtracks of various Thai television series and also performed in television commercials. She has a first-class honours degree and is currently studying on a Master Degree at the College of Music, Mahidol University.
Nattida Gumchai and Pichaya Kemasingki sing Lloyd-Webber. (Photo/Ben Hansen)
Nattida was joined by bass-baritone Pichaya Kemasingki who had stepped in at short notice. He’s also a member of Grand Opera Thailand, the successful opera production group directed by Stefan Sanchez. Pichaya is a talented singer-actor who has already completed his B. Mus. in Vocal Performance at the College of Music, Mahidol University and who has performed major roles in many operas.
The opening numbers were confident and sparkling. Nattida began with Una donna quindici anni from Mozart’s “Cosi van Tutte” and gave a lively account of the aria with exceptional stage presence and audience contact. Pichaya opened his selection with Non piu andrai, one of the most well-known arias from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” in which his intonation was spot-on and his diction impressively clear.
One of the highlights during the first half of the concert was Nattida’s beautifully poised performance of two Schumann songs, Widmung and Du bist wie eine Blume, the first of which was later converted into a heroic piano piece by Franz Liszt. Nattida gave a thoughtful and telling performance of the songs with perfectly clear diction. The audience gave a warm reception to her excellent singing of Mein Herr Marquis from the Strauss opera “Die Fledermaus” which she played with tremendous panache and delightful acting. Pichaya gave a convincing performance of Verdi’s Come dal ciel precipita which demonstrated his clear low register and ability to bring off the heroic closing section. He also gave a telling and powerful performance of Vecchia zimarra from Puccini’s “La Bohème”.
The second half of the concert began with Nattida’s fine performance of two songs by Brahms and Grieg in which her finely-focused tone quality conveyed the reflective mood of the songs. Most of the second half was devoted to lighter fare, with music from the musicals and some lovely duets. I was especially impressed by Nattida and Pichaya singing Sun and Moon from “Miss Saigon” in which their voices blended beautifully. Another highlight was All I ask of you from “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber in which the singers worked splendidly together and Pichaya impressed with his remarkably focused soft tone. His performance of Stars from “Les Misérables” was much appreciated by the audience.
Nattida also gave a moving performance of Don’t cry for me Argentina which showed her lovely clear tone quality and precise diction. She was encouraged by sensitive piano playing from Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn who incidentally is a brilliant solo pianist in his own right. He has won prizes in the Yamaha Thailand Music Festival Competition, the Eighth Bangkok Chopin Piano Competition and the Third Persatuan International Chopin Piano Competition in Malaysia. He also holds a Bachelor Degree in Composition from Mahidol University. Throughout the concert he proved a remarkably reliable and thoughtful accompanist on the fine Yamaha digital piano.
The audience delighted in Pichaya’s entertaining performance of Copland’s I Bought me a Cat and the evening concluded with three encores bringing the concert to a satisfying conclusion. Several members of the audience felt it was the best concert yet in the current season. I think I’d agree and on reflection, I rather enjoyed the humming chorus.