In a way, we have to thank Ben’s cat for this concert which was given recently by five members of Grand Opera Thailand to celebrate the theater’s reopening after major renovation work.
At the Christmas concert last December there was a moment of unexpected drama when, during a performance by soprano Pimluk Vessawasdi, part of the ceiling came down near the right hand side of the stage. Fortunately no one was directly underneath at the time, but the collapse was caused by Ben’s cat who was taking an evening stroll on the roof. Although the cat (Blacky, since you asked) is not particularly heavy, no one realised that hordes of termites had been at work with the result that the plasterboard had been literally eaten away. Many of the rotten beams and the plasterwork had to be replaced.
It took seven days to complete the repair work and the theater now looks as good as new. The audience seemed pleased to be back in the familiar surroundings and the members of Grand Opera Thailand provided a fine, well-paced concert.
After an amusing welcome address from Ben himself, the concert opened with Verdi’s Libiamo ne’ lieti calici sung enthusiastically by Pimluk Vessawasdi (Mai) and tenor Kittiphong Klabprathum (Ohm). Then counter-tenor Potpreecha Cholvijarn (Jak) sang the demanding Bach aria Vergngte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust with typically clear tone and perfect intonation.
Ohm provided a compelling performance of the lovely Dowland song Come again, sweet love doth now invite after which baritone Stefan Sanchez, Director of Grand Opera Thailand, sang Ma๑anita de San Juan. It’s a charming song by the Spanish Catalan composer Eduard Toldrเ who incidentally, founded the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in 1944. Then it was Mai’s turn to sing Chanson d’amour, a delightful song by Gabriel Faur้. Mai has tremendous stage presence and seems to have a natural ability to connect with the audience. This was evident in her performance of Mozart’s Vedrai, carino from “Don Giovanni”.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the evening was Stefan’s first-class presentation of three British folksongs arranged by Benjamin Britten. They included The Sally Gardens, O Waly, Waly and the evergreen song The Foggy, Foggy Dew to which Stefan brought insightful characterization.
Pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm provided splendid accompaniments. He has a thoroughly professional and unobtrusive approach and has the ability to handle contrasting musical styles with equal skill and musicianship.
Later, Stefan performed the surprisingly jolly song Fu฿reise by Hugo Wolf. The title roughly translates as “Going a-Walking” which of course is what Blacky was doing when he fell through the roof. Later in the programme Stefan brought power and drama to Mozart’s Hai gia vinta la causa…Vedro mentr’io sospiro from “The Marriage of Figaro”.
Ohm gave a gentle and charming reading of Schubert’s song Ganymed, a setting of a poem by Goethe and drawn from ancient Greek mythology. Then in contrast he sang Turina’s Farruca with its declamatory opening chords and Spanish rhythms. Jak sang Ridente la calma by Mozart with good phrasing and lovely tone quality but the audience was particularly enthusiastic about Venga pur, minacci, e frema from Mozart’s little-known opera “Mitridate, re di Ponto”. It is a technically challenging aria written when the fourteen-year-old composer was on tour in Italy.
The concert concluded with a couple of songs by Andrew Lloyd-Webber in which Mai sang Think of me which she began with a lovely sotto voce tone quality. Ohm and Mai confidently sang All I ask of you from “The Phantom of the Opera” and the concerts finished with the encore number, the rousing Italian song Funicul์, Funiculเ.
Oh yes, the cat. Thank you for reminding me. Despite falling through the roof, the cat escaped completely unscathed and now basks in his newly-acquired celebrity status.