Above : This concert event featured several costume changes from Jessica Pratt , including this concept for  Amina’s mad scene from  Donzietti’s ‘La Sonnambula’.  Photo by Marco Borelli. Featured image: Pratt presents her personal take on the famous mad sceme from ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’. 

Mad Scenes with Jessica Pratt gave Sydney audiences the chance to view and hear the operatic sensation that is Jessica Pratt, for one last time this visit. Her triumphant participation in the recent run of Opera Ausralia’s   Les contes d’Hoffmann by Offenbach had everyone raving madly about the production and this operatic superstar.

And what a wild ride was  in store for us when Pratt took total control of the narrow strip of Concert Hall stage in front of the Opera Australia Orchestra, led with  passion and precision equally matching the superstar soloist by conductor Johannes Fritzsch.

The mad scenes in this concert came from the top ten of opera’s  peaks of despair, rage,confusion and murderous rage. These stunning and loved moments of bel canto going  beserk traced female characters torn apart by love, misguided lustful men and society which makes no more sense with regard to mores and amore.

All the huge numbers made famous by global coloratura giants from Callas to Sutherland were crystalised here in refreshed interpretation by the currently inimitable Pratt. Taking them out of their original operas and into concert hall  guise lost no edginess in these separate dramatic events. They contrasted well within the theme and the varied virtuosic sound they ruthlessly demand soared  around the  the responsive  acoustic of the Opera House venue.

Above: Jessica Pratt performed in the costume above for as the heroine Emilia in Donizetti’s ‘Emilia di Liverpool’. Photo by Marco Borelli.

In the Opera House hall beside the Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre, named after one of the world’s most popular interpreters of Donizetti’s and Bellini’s mad scenes, it was fitting we were able to hear the powerhouse voice of Jessica Pratt attack the famous excerpts from I Puritani, Lucia di Lamermoor and La Sonnambula.

Pratt and the orchestra , both in very fine form, also  reminded us of similar gems tucked away in lesser known Donizetti dramas. From I Puritani the brief but bright fireworks of  “O rendetemi la speme… Qui la voce sua soave… Vien diletto è in ciel la luna.” was well supported by the Opera Australia orchestra.

The opening vocal treat for us was Bellini’s tightrope highlight of desperation , “La nello mio… Ah non credea mirarti… Ah non giunge” from the unwed Amina in the twisted tale of men on a whim and a woman on the literal edge in La Sonnambula. 

This favourite was well presented with well-measured pace and storytellig space around both the effects and lyricism on this night.  In the talented and energetic hands of Pratt, this opening set a high standard for the colourful, exacting and impressively costumed concert collaboration with conductor Johannes Fritzch and the well articulated orchestra.

Flute lines in this opera’s excerpt as well and the interplay with the voice in the dire mad scene “Il dolce suono…” from Donizetti’s Lucia. This wedding night romp of a tortured mind and manipulated heart was an epic narrative for the kaleidoscope nuance ability and timbral effect machine that is Jessica Pratt’s impressive vocal instrument.

Amidst the trills, leaps to and from the vocal register stratosphere and fitness of this colorautra specialists display, the clear dramatic mileu created for each excerpt was created in an instant by the orchestra and soloist, and organic growth of musical line plus the  development of each heroine’s predicament were extremely clearly outlined.

Above : Conductor Johannes Fritzsch led the Opera Australia Orchestra during Mad Scenes. 

In a concert sans surtitles to unravel all of the Italian language, the achievement of hearing a pin drop in the venue as the audience followed the succint programme note and the focus on stage was an exciting atmosphere.

Fans hug on every run, effect, outcry and crescendoing string of pain-to-panic displayed This was  the same for opera fans both old and new, including  the quintet enthusiastically wearing lettered sweaters in box seats spelling out O-P-E-R-A.

To separate the tranche-d’opera portions and draw us even further into the attractive web of opera’s vivid tapestry, the orchestra provided preludes, interludes and dramatic tropes from some of the art forms largest musical moments.

Guest concertmaster Patrick Savage spearheaded this musicological and sonic treat with great leadership and  solo playing featuring fine gesturing. This mingled with the orchestra’s intricate  shapes created  in front of us.  These orchestral pieces were joyous and heartwarming relief after the chill of soprano despair heard and drawn in expert caricature for us by Pratt prior to interval.

The Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavaleria Rusticana  was full of exciting colour as our oft heard opera band was enjoyed out of the orchestral pit and centre stage in the concert hall, creating fine dramatic and scenic vistas as formidable palate cleansers throughout this buffet of opera highlights.

We also heard the intricacies and swag of Verdi’s Ballet Music from the late moments of his Macbeth. This lesser heard treat mirrored the glistening Donizetti rarities “Quest’aure mattutina… Madre deh placati… Ah di contento ripiena ho l’alma” from Emilia di Liverpool and “Carlo Carlo… Nel silenzio della sera… No non è ver mentirono” from Linda Chemounix.

We were truly spoiled in both well-known and rarer music to have the powerhouse vocal arsenal of Jessica Pratt, her acting and stagecraft plus carriage in elaborate gowns during this concert. We were able  to look on in horror, astonishment and surprise at the scenes so excellently on offer.

“Brava” was a pale cry to shout out after the intensities heard from Pratt on this night. An Opera House 50th birthday gift for patrons of Pratt’s album Delirio as a pre-release signed copy was an additional treat on this special night.

Opera Australia continues its presentation of superstar performers with a two night  “In Concert’”version of Ponchielli’s opera ‘La Gioconda’ next week starring Jonas Kaufmann.