‘A Life Together in Song’ was sentimental.
Renowned opera singers and partners in life, Cheryl Barker and Peter Coleman-Wright, teamed up to present ‘A Life Together in Song’, a recital showcasing their lifetime together in opera. The Opera Queensland Studio at South Bank served as the perfect venue for this intimate and heartfelt performance.
Both Barker and Coleman-Wright have had long and illustrious careers in opera. Their voices have led them to perform all over the world and with opera companies such as the Paris Opera, English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Combined, they have played over 100 leading roles, including Don Giovanni, Macbeth, Figaro, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Salome. Both performers were made Officer of the Order of Australia for their outstanding achievements.
The simplistic stage comprised of a grand piano and plinth displaying a vase of flowers. The classic recital aesthetic was enhanced by soft coloured lights illuminating the black curtains. As is often the case with opera, the singers performed without microphones, enabling the natural power and resonance of their voices to be heard unaltered.
The performance followed a classic recital format. The performers and accompanying pianist, Jillianne Stoll, entered the stage to applause before beginning their songs. The choice of songs were a mix of arias and duets from composers such as Mendelssohn, Shubert and Verdi.
Barker and Coleman-Wright moved around the stage more than would be expected in a recital. They inhibited the character and scene they were portraying and drew the audience into the storyline of the opera for which the song had been originally written.
The recital was interwoven with anecdotes and personal reflections of the duo’s operatic careers. It was wonderful to witness these stalwarts of Australian opera share what each song meant to them and why they chose to include it in the recital.
Barker’s rendition of ‘Song to the Moon’ from Rusalka was the highlight of the performance. Her powerful high notes resonated through the acoustic studio. The conclusion of the aria was met with rapturous applause and shouts of ‘brava’ from the audience. Another notable performance was Coleman-Wright’s captivating ‘Gruppe aus dem Tartarus’ by Schubert. His resonant, menacing low notes and captivating acting allowed the audiences to believe he was descending to the underworld.
The recital ended with a medley from Noel Coward of light-hearted operetta. It was a refreshing change from the serious operatic repertoire and joyous to watch the couple interacting in wit and banter.
As an encore, Barker and Coleman-Wright performed ‘With You’ from Pippin. This song was particularly meaningful to the pair. The song perfectly encapsulated the meaning of the recital – a look back at their lives together in song.
Overall, ‘A Life Together in Song’ was an intimate glimpse behind the curtain and into the lives and hearts of two of Australia’s most loved opera singers.
‘A Life Together in Song’ performed for one night only. For more information about upcoming performances, visit the Opera Queensland website.