Dear Friends of Pinchgut Opera,
We are currently going through an unprecedented period of social change and upheaval. As we contemplate the future in the safety and comfort of our homes (with or without toilet paper!), I thought I would put together a series of playlists of some of my favourite artists and music to keep you occupied with beautiful things.
As Diderot writes in 1748:
“A beautiful machine, a beautiful painting, a beautiful portico please us only through the relationships we discern in them; could this not even be said of a beautiful view as much as of a beautiful concerto? The perception of relationships is the unique foundation of our admiration and pleasure, and it is from this point that we must explain the most subtle phenomena offered to us by the sciences and the arts.”
Perceiving the interrelation of relationships, Diderot says, is a key to recognising and relishing beauty. We see beautiful patterns emerge in music as much as we do in a machine, or a painting, a micro-organism, or indeed in a well-functioning society. Diderot would see beauty in the extraordinary bravery and dedication of our health officials, for example, as much as he would in a well-performed Vivaldi concerto. He would applaud, like Rousseau, the rational acts we have put in place to mitigate this health crisis.
All of these tracks feature Pinchgut artists: four women, four men, and one artistic director. Enjoy!
Stay safe and healthy!
Tracks 1-2: I’m calling it: this is the best recording of the Stabat Mater ever, and recently released on Alpha. Sandrine Piau joins Pinchgut artist (and dearest best friend) Chris Lowrey in a heart-breaking rendition with Les Talens Lyriques under Christophe Rousset, who will hopefully travel to Australia with Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg later this year with Musica Viva.
Track 3: Ed Lyon, another Pinchgut artist and a very dear friend, has recently released an award-winning album full of wonderful hits. Here is my favourite track, from Cavalli’s final opera.
Track 4: I recently rediscovered (as in, I had completely forgot I had done this recording!) a beautiful album I was involved in way back in 2011. This is Bruce Haynes’ “New” Brandenburg concertos, recorded when I was living in Montréal. Bruce (now sadly passed away) was one of the greatest musicologists I have had the pleasure of working with. He arranged 6 “New” Brandenburg Concertos from sinfonias and instrumental movements of Bach. It’s a great disc, do check it out! I’m playing on one of them with the superb baroque oboist Matthew Jennejohn (one of Bruce’s students). I’ve very proud of my harpsichord playing in this one.
Track 5-6: This is the only selection from a Pinchgut Live recording: I can't resist including it. My favourite moment from our award-winning Artaserse is Carlo Vistoli's rendition of “Pallido il sole.” Rousseau spoke of this scene as being one of the greatest achievements in all of Italian opera in his Lettre sur la musique française (1753). Charles de Brosses, a great opera-lover like yourself, considered the aria to be “the most beautiful of the seven or eight hundred arias that I had copied from various operas. [Hasse] is a most learned composer: his operas are crafted with great taste, expression, and harmonic skill.” Philip V desired that Farinelli sing him “Pallido il sole” every night in a private concert for almost a decade. Hopefully it will give you some solace, just as it did for Philip V.
Track 7: Miriam Allan is one of the finest exponents of baroque music I know. An extraordinary soprano of superlative ability, I visited Mim recently in London and listened to her husband sing Evensong in Windsor Chapel. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Here is Mim singing her heart out in her latest album from Les Arts Florissants of the Monteverdi madrigals.
Track 8: Helen Sherman recently had her debut at the Royal Opera House in London (sadly cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis) and of course was featured in our last production at Pinchgut. Here she is in a beautiful recording of Arne’s Artaserse. That opening mezzo di voce …
Track 9: Caitlin Hulcup has performed in many Pinchgut favourites, including her spectacular performance in Theodora. Here she is in one of Purcell’s most beautiful airs: “If Love’s a Sweet Passion.”
Track 10: Sam Boden was our Pygmalion when we did our Triple Bill and is one of the best high baroque tenors around. Listen to this excerpt from the Monteverdi Vespers and marvel at the singers’ exquisite control of vibrato and dynamics.
Track 11: Taryn Fiebig has been the doyenne of the Australian stage for many years now and is one of Australia’s finest and most theatrical sopranos (and the most beautiful human being you have ever had the pleasure of coming across, in every way). She’ll be performing in our upcoming production of Handel’s Rinaldo. Here is a beautiful excerpt of her performing a work from a very little-known but excellent French composer called Jean-Baptiste Stuck.