After the unrelenting bleakness of Faust, it was such a pleasure to attend
The Magic of Vienna at the National Concert Hall, and immerse myself in
the Viennese music and "sachertorte." Sachertorte is a German pastry, and
word sometimes used negatively by music critics, to describe an opera or
operetta which is almost too sweet to be believed. In this case, I mean it in
only the best sense. The lightness and gaiety of the music, and the wonderful
singing of the stars, carried us away to a land of joy. Jim Molloy Promotions
has always presented evenings of joy, and May 4 was no exception. With the
irrepressible Angela Kelly Molloy as presenter, we were off on a whirlwind trip
to the Vienna of old.....the Vienna of Strauss, Lehar, Kalman, and Offenbach,
among others. Aided by her background information, and punctuated by her witty
remarks to the audience, Angela Molloy was a delight. If she ever decides to
sing as well, there'll be no stopping her!. The Festival Strauss Orchestra, was
wonderful throughout the program, led with great panache by Aidan Faughey.
Maestro Faughey has a great affinity for the Viennese repertoire, and he
conducted with the proper lilt, even putting up with several types of "audience
participation." The orchestra treated us to the Tick Tock Polka, the Salut
for August Bournonville, and two very famous pieces...The Radetzky March,
by Strauss, and The Pizzicato Polka, also by the Strausses, among other
pieces. They were equally as effective, whether accompanying the talented
dancers, or our two stars.
Kathryn Smith is regarded as Ireland's most popular soprano. She has sung
pretty much everything, from opera and operetta, to oratorio, to Gershwin,
Kern, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. She has just finished touring the
United States with Andy Cooney, and is now teaching singing at the
Leinster School of Music. The possessor of a huge vocal range, she
has extraordinary high notes. I was asked if she sang high C in the
program. Many of those, and notes even higher. And she has a winning
stage persona. She looked lovely in the three changes of gown she wore,
and her smile just lights up the hall. She was very funny in "The Doleful
Prima Donna" by Karl Millocker. It's a difficult piece, but Kathryn certainly
pulled it off. And her "Cancion de la Paloma" was very beautifully sung.
The duo of Kathryn Smith and Anthony Kearns is well-known in Ireland,
and justly so. Their voices blend beautifully, and they make a charming
couple onstage. They also appear comfortable together, which is lovely to
watch. Together they began the program with "Vienna City of My
Dreams." It was a wonderful beginning, and each was in great voice.
Anthony and Kathryn also sang the very famous piece "Im Chambre Separee",
from the 1898 operetta Der Opernball, by Richard Heuberger. This piece,
originally written as a solo, was magnificently done, with both singers
acting the parts of lovers arranging a tryst. Anthony especially, really
got into the part, and at the end of the piece, stuck his head back out
onstage, and gave the audience an exaggerated wink, to show he knew
he'd be successful! The most famous duet of all was of course, "The Merry
Widow Waltz", by Franz Lehar. It was sung as an encore, and as
Anthony and Kathryn sang so beautifully, and as they waltzed together,
it was one of those perfect stage moments that you try to burn in your
memory, so you can call it up any time you want.
Anthony Kearns is called Ireland's Best Living Tenor. That description is
becoming more and more apt, as he continues to pursue other vocal genres,
along with working with The Irish Tenors. After four very successful
performances of Faust with Opera Ireland, he switched gears magnificently
to sing some of the most beautiful music ever written, the music of the
operetta. Anthony began his solo offerings with the wondrous "Ihr Stillen Sussen"
from the 1916 operetta "Die Rose von Stambul", by Leo Fall. It was gorgeously
and lovingly sung. His next solo was listed as "Rosenlied", but it's better
known as "Schenkt Man sich Rosen von Tyrol", or just "Rosen von Tyrol."
This is an exquisite piece from an 1891 operetta by Carl Zeller, called
"Der Vogelhandler", or The Birdseller. Anthony's lovely soft voice and
expert German made this one of my favorites of the evening. A piece
which was written for, and created by Richard Tauber, could have been
written for Anthony Kearns, as well. "Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss"
from "Paganini", by Lehar, was a tour de force for Anthony. With
his brilliant high notes, and outrageous flirting with the audience,
it was a show-stopper. Part of what makes Anthony Kearns Ireland's
Best Living Tenor, is the fact that he's equally at home in the operatic
arias of Gounod and Puccini, in the millieu of Lehar and Romberg, and
in the heartfelt songs of his native land. Add to that the sound of that
glorious voice, and it's a no-brainer.
I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention the heroic efforts of
Vivian Coates, director of this wonderful evening. Vivian is Artistic
Director of Lyric Opera, Dublin, and as such, has been responsible
for some great productions of La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly,
The Merry Widow, My Fair Lady, and The King and I, to name but a few.
And of course, he contributed a huge amount to The Irish Ring, which
Jim Molloy Promotions brought over to the States in 2002, and which
starred Anthony and Kathryn. For The Magic of Vienna, he not only
directed our stars in their solos and duets, but he designed the settings
and the lighting, as well. And after the "blue hue" of the recent Faust
staging at the Gaiety, this bright production was very lovely, and most
welcome. Vivian also designed Kathryn's beautiful flame-colored final
gown of the evening, and did her hair in a wonderful, sparkly upsweep.
I'll just add my thanks and love to Jim Molloy, for having the caring and
forsight to plan entertainment such as this, and for choosing his
performers so wisely, and so well.
THE MAGIC of VIENNA
National Concert Hall
May 4, 2006
Berta and Jim Molloy