What an exhilarating way to spend Saturday evening! Whoever thought opera concerts could be stuffy affairs needs to experience soprano Michelle Ryan and friends strutting their stuff. These multi-talented musicians obviously enjoy making music together.
Upon entering the Maclean Civic Centre we were serenaded beautifully by Pizzicato, with violinist Kate Thomson and Michelle’s younger sister, Breanna Ryan, on cello. The hall was packed to capacity, abuzz with anticipation. We were not disappointed.
From the onset, we were impressed by Michelle’s seemingly effortless performance. Closing my eyes, I could have sworn I was in a concert hall in Europe. Indeed, this is where Michelle has spent the past year or so, working with several opera companies. She returns to the Clarence Valley for a much-needed break whilst studying for her Masters of Education and teaching privately.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Think of Me was performed with superb sensitivity, followed by Massenet’s sonorous Elégie, accompanied sensitively by Breanna on cello.
Michelle dazzled us with her remarkable technique and unique interpretation of superb operatic works, with even a sprinkling of Irish folk songs. Danny Boy had us all transfixed – you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Michelle was joined by several other performers, including thoroughly entertaining classical guitarist Ryan Enns, who joined Michelle in a unique performance of the haunting Bachianas Brasilieras by Villa-Lobos. Two sopranos, sisters Madeleine and Emma Short, performed beautifully, as did Kate Thomson, on violin and voice. So lovely to see younger performers successfully studying classical music, with truly remarkable results. But the standout performer for me was young baritone, Connor Willmore. This young man possesses a gloriously rich, smooth tone, coupled with a mature stage presence – and not yet 18.
This letter would not be complete without mention of Sister Anne Gallagher OAM and Gwen Berman OAM. These two ladies (dare I say, of a certain age) accompanied each of the singers with such professionalism and panache. Not an easy task, particularly the intrinsically demanding arias performed by Michelle. Sister Anne, you must have been immensely proud to see your former students up on stage doing what they were born to do – perform. Some you started teaching in primary school.
Finale of the evening saw the artists combine to perform The Prayer with stunning sensitivity.
Needless to say, it was standing ovation time. It was delightful to have witnessed such professionalism coupled with a sense of family and community.
Thank you, Michelle and Co. for yet another memorable concert. I’m still smiling!
Helen Tucker, Grafton