Grand Opera at Siam Bayshore

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An enthusiastic audience of well over two hundred people recently enjoyed an evening of songs and opera arias at Siam Bayshore Hotel presented by Pattaya Classical Music and members of Grand Opera (Thailand), a successful opera company directed by the distinguished baritone Stefan Sanchez.  

The concert, held March 13, featured three young talented Thai singers; soprano Nattida Gumchai (Pang), baritone Saran Senavinin (Rain) and tenor Kittiphong Klabprathum (Ohm) accompanied as usual by pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn.  Stefan Sanchez, who also maintains a career as an international opera singer, producer and director had developed a throat infection and was unable to sing.  But Ohm had evidently stepped in at short notice and brought a few extra songs to the programme.

(From left) Kittiphong Klabprathum (Ohm), Nattida Gumchai (Pang), Saran Senavinin (Rain) and pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn pose for a group photo at the conclusion of the March 13 concert at the Siam Bayshore Hotel in Pattaya. (Photo/Marcus Souksi)

Ohm has a light tenor voice and he opened the evening with a competent performance of O del mio dolce ardor from Gluck’s 1770 opera Paride ed Elena.  It was followed by Danza, Danza Fanciulla Gentile a classical art song by the Italian composer Francesco Durante.  He also gave a spirited performance of Vittoria, Vittoria mio core! by the Italian baroque composer Giacomo Carissimi.

Rain showed excellent stage presence and clear diction in Mozart’s vocally demanding aria, Donne mie, la fate a tanti from the opera Cosi fan tutte.  Pang made her appearance with a delightful performance of the song Ich liebe dich by Edvard Grieg.  Rain performed two more Grieg songs which date from the 1880s, Zur Rosenzeit and Ein Traum.  He provided a thoughtful performance of these reflective songs and his good intonation and poised sotte voce tone was especially telling.

I enjoyed Pang’s expressive performance of Hugo Wolf’s song Er ist’s and her singing of the lovely Brahms song Wie Melodien zieht es mir.  Ohm and Pang performed the famous duet Lippen Schweigen from Lehar’s opera The Merry Widow.  It’s so well-known that even during the piano introduction a ripple of encouraging applause emerged from the audience.

In contrast, Rain performed two lovely songs by Schumann, Widmung and Die Lotusblume.  The powerful song Widmung must be one of Schumann’s most well-known and Rain gave a competent performance with excellent control of the melodic line.

I was impressed with Morakot’s sympathetic piano accompaniment too.  He really is an exceptional accompanist who not only has a fine piano technique but follows the soloist with impeccable style and accuracy.  His technique came to the fore in the tricky accompaniment for the song Les Filles de Cadix by Delibes with its infectious Spanish rhythms.  Pang sang it with great style and panache and delighted the audience.  It was one of the highlights of the evening.

After the interval, Rain continued the Spanish flavour with his performance of three songs from Don Quichotte A Dulcinée by Ravel.  This, for me at any rate, was another highlight because Rain is so good at this reflective type of song with his assured vocal control and spot-on intonation.  Ohm and Pang provided a spirited performance of Libiamo ne’ lieti calici, the drinking duet from Verdi’s La Traviata and probably one of the best-known opera melodies of all time.

Another highlight was the extended duet Pronta io son from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale sung by Pang and Rain and given a hilarious performance which received an enthusiastic ovation.  By this time, all three singers were well into their stride and Pang gave an exhilarating rendition of Meine Herr Marquis from Die Fledermaus with some splendidly assured high notes.

The final set opened with Pang’s touching performance of Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from the 1927 musical Showboat.  She was joined by Rain for the delightful Lloyd Webber duet All I ask of you while Pang and Ohm did some attractive close-harmony work in Last night of the World from Miss Saigon.  The three singers joined for their encore number Funiculì, Funiculà, Luigi Denza’s famous Neapolitan song which brought the concert to a rousing conclusion.  Incidentally, the song dates from 1880 and was written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius.  I bet you didn’t know that.