The recent vocal concert at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien featured not one, not two, but three splendid sopranos, who presented a programme which – either by accident or design – contained several songs with an ornithological theme.
We have got used to high quality concerts at Ben’s Theater but the recent concert entitled Opera and Art Songs was exceptional. For a start, the programme itself was superbly planned and clearly a great deal of work had gone into selecting the songs and presenting them in a pleasing and logical order. The three sopranos were Pariyachart Sitthidamrongkorn, Duangamorn Fu and Lim Sin Mei who are advanced students of Professor Nancy Tsui-Ping Wei, a member of the Classical Voice Faculty of the College of Music at Mahidol University since 1995. Everything was sung from memory, despite the fact that the songs were in several different languages. The singers were accompanied by two fine pianists, Siri Sranoi and Anant Changwaiwit.
The programme opened with one of those songs that everyone recognizes when it gets to the chorus, the so-called Vilja Song from Franz Lehár’s opera The Merry Widow. It was performed by Pariyachart who impressed with her clear, strong tone and confident stage presence.
The composer Stanislao Gastaldon is remembered for only one song which he wrote in 1881; his Musica proibita which remains one of the most popular songs in Italy. It was given an impressive performance by Duangamorn who also communicated well with the audience. She and Pariyachart gave a lovely performance of Mendelssohn’s charming vocal duet Abschiedslied der Zugvögel (rendered rather clumsily in English as the “Farewell Song of the Migrating Birds”) and their voices blended perfectly.
Lim Sin gave a confident performance of Verdi’s Saper vorreste with good intonation and pure tone quality. She won the excellence award in the Sixth China Collegiate Opera and Lieder Competition and is currently studying for her doctoral degree. She demonstrated good stage presence and audience contact too.
Pariyachart gave a pleasing performance of Faure’s melancholy Les Roses d’Ispahan with good intonation and an excellent dreamy piano accompaniment from Siri Sranoi. He incidentally has already graduated from Mahidol University with both Bachelor and Master degrees in piano performance. Throughout the concert he provided excellent support as did the other accompanist Anant Changwaiwit who is currently studying towards a Master of Music in Performance and Pedagogy. Anant provided the splendid accompaniment to the delightful Rossini duet La Pesca, performed by Lim Sin and Duangamorn which for me at least, was one of the highlights of the evening. Their voices blended perfectly and they sang with spot-on intonation with a beautifully timed ending.
The first part of the concert ended with Schubert’s well-known song Der Erlkönig, a spooky tale which tells of the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being. Pariyachart, who has won prizes in opera performance at the Osaka International Music Competition in Japan gave a dramatic performance of the song and effectively caught its contrasting moods. Siri played the famously difficult piano accompaniment with its tricky repeated notes with drive and confidence.
Duangamorn, who was also one of the finalists in the Osaka International Music Competition gave an immensely satisfying reading of Bizet’s L’amour est un Oiseau from his opera Carmen. It’s the well-known Habanera, which evokes images of sultry evenings in Southern Spain and Duangamorn brought a lovely sense of mystery to the song. It was another musical highlight as was the famous Duetto di due Gatti (Cat duet) which consists entirely of the word “meow”. It was once thought to be composed by Rossini but it wasn’t, at least not in that form. The duet first appeared in a collection of Rossini songs put together by Robert Lucas Pearsall, a self-taught composer. The duet is attributed to someone called G. Berthold which is almost certainly a pseudonym for Pearsall himself. It combines a couple of Rossini arias and a third one by the Danish composer Christoph Weyse. Lim Sin and Pariyachart gave a hilarious and beautifully presented performance.
Another successful duet was Schubert’s Mignon und der Harfner sung by Pariyachart and Duangamorn. Their voices blended superbly. Duangamorn sang the melancholy song by Ernest Charles, When I have Sung my Songs to You with a lovely gentle piano accompaniment from Siri. Duangamorn’s tone quality, especially in the really quiet passages was compelling. Lim Sin and Duangamorn were excellent in their singing of Schelm, halt fest! from Weber’s Der Freischütz and Duangamorn brought some welcome drama into the piece.
The concert ended with all three singers in a heart-warming rendering of the jolly waltz by Godfrey Nutting entitled Sing! Sing! Birds on the Wing! Anant provided a tremendously rhythmic accompaniment in the dance-like piece, bringing the concert to a delightful conclusion.