Theatre Travels, 12 August 2023
Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Ponchielli: La Gioconda, Sydney, 9. und 12. August 2023
La Gioconda at the Sydney Opera House
An operatic special, complete with a star-studded cast and fireworks at interval – this triumphant performance of La Gioconda at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall is a wonderful way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Opera House.

Whilst Ponchielli’s score is not one that grabbed me, perhaps this is an opera that needs costumes and staging to be fully appreciated, there were moments in this opera that were simply stunning. Most of which were the ensemble moments, carried by the Opera Australia Chorus, who were in sharp form once again. It was a lovely to touch to see Jin Tea Kim recognized at the end of the performance for 40 years with the Opera Australia Chorus. There were some exemplary soloist’s from the chorus showcased in this concert and it would be lovely to see more from these performers who all held their own against the formidable cast.

Saioa Hernandez certainly stole the night in the titular role of La Gioconda. This soprano sang big sounds the whole night without tiring and yet also pulled off moments of delicate pianissimos with great aplomb. Her voice was effortless and rich – it ricocheted around the Concert Hall with fanfare and flare. Brava! She is matched brilliantly by Ludovic Tézier who sings almost non-stop for the first 2 acts of the opera. His interpretation of Barnarba is simply awesome. His voice is rich and velvety, and despite the mammoth role he also never tires.

Jonas Kauffman was clearly battling illness on the evening. What struck me most about Kauffman was not his voice (although despite the fact he was not 100% well, I would still place him in the top 3 male voices I have heard on the opera house stage – so what’s he like when he’s well?) but rather his humility. Kaufmman is lovely to watch, he is a text-based performer who interprets brilliantly and his rendition of “Cielo e mar” is divine. But it is in the moments when Kauffman watches his colleagues, as he sits on the stage, with a smile and great confidence in their abilities he is his most charming. He seems constantly surprised by the audience adoration of him, but never shocked at the brilliance of his colleagues and is effervescently encouraging of them.

The Opera Australia Orchestra is in fine form once again, and I cannot get over how remarkable these musicians are. To pull off this concert and the Mad Scenes last week with Pratt, in such a flawless way, is nothing short of incredible. Pinchas Steinberg is a fabulous conductor who listens to his singers and leads the orchestra with great expertise and care.

This performance by Opera Australia is a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Opera House. It is so fabulous to see the Concert Hall filled to the brim with patrons and opera lovers, both old and new. I hope that Opera Australia continue to thrive with such awesome performances such as this one.

  back top