Opera Gala, National Concert Hall


BARRA O'TUAMA has a good ear for a tenor. Jose Azocar, the Chilean he introduced at the NCH last night, has a more baritonal sound than his compatriot, Beltran but lacks nothing in lyric warmth and ringing top.

And the limpid half-voice he throws in occasionally is a delight.

Italian baritone Marzio Giossi's sharply-focused voice and adroit manipulation of dynamics were every bit as good as on his previous visits; and Cara O'Sullivan was in even better voice than before.

The Cork soprano tossed off a considerable amount of fearsome coloratura, delivered in full voice and with good articulation, as well as cleanly-delineated cantillena in which attention to words was always evident. Her spitfire-like delivery of the Queen of Night's vengeance aria whetted the appetite for her appearance in the role with Opera Ireland at the Gaiety in April.

In a concert where all the items were above par, the things that pleased me most were the duets, especially the extended love duet from Lucia di Lammermoor, with its good blending and lovely legato from tenor and soprano, and the Violetta/Germont scene from La traviata, which had similar qualities with added pathos from soprano and baritone. Then there was Mr Giossi's technically secure Largo from Rossini's Il barbiere and Mr Azocar's poignant singing in the Lucia tomb scene. Best of all was Ms O'Sullivan's bravura performance of Violetta's Ah! fors' e lui and Sempre libera.

Phillip Thomas, the latest in a sequence of excellent piano accompanists, was every bit as supportive as his predecessors and David Milnes's Guinness Choir offered strong-voiced backing, although the sound of female voices in the Lucia finale was something of a shock.