Live music at last

4 June 2020

Hooray, a concert! Sandra Bowdler is thrilled to be entertained, wined and dined with real people, as Kidogo Arthouse’s Candlelit Soirees commence.

‘Opera Night’, Joanna’s Candlelit Soirées ·
Kidogo Arthouse, 2 June 2020 ·
Review by Sandra Bowdler ·

Kidogo Arthouse has been re-opened by its passionate owner Joanna Robertson for a series of Candlelit Soirées accompanied by a three-course meal (or, if you prefer, a prix fixe dinner with music thrown in). On Tuesday night I was thrilled to be able to attend the first in the Opera Night series featuring pumpkin soup, vegetarian goulash or beef shin stew with a date-nut-dark chocolate confection and totally yummy soda bread baked by Joanna herself. Wine and other drinkables were available for purchase, and the interior was enhanced by stunning photographic depictions of African people, all in the warm glow of candlelight.

A bowl of pumpkin soup on a rustic board, with candelabra
A soiree with three-course meal served in the glow of candlelight. Photo by Joanna Robertson

Before the meal, the perfectly still, if not quite warm, winter weather allowed us to sit out on the deck and enjoy a glass of sparkling something before the soup.

The entertainment was rolled out after the main course. ‘It’s so lovely to sing for real people’, Sara Macliver greeted the (strictly limited to 20) audience. The soprano was joined by her long-time pianistic partner Caroline Badnall in a program kicked off by a series of well-known arias from opera, followed by some popular songs. I suppose Macliver might have sung a bad note during her long and illustrious career, but I have never heard one. 

First off was ‘Adele’s Laughing Song’, light-hearted number from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, tossed off (in English) with sparkling embellishments. Shifting gears, the next item was the gorgeous Baroque aria ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from Handel’s Rinaldo, his first offering to the English public in 1711 and still a hit over 300 years later.  This is as good a version as you are ever likely to hear, delivered with a depth of feeling which inspired total silence among the patrons. An exuberant rendition of Gounod’s ‘Ah! Je veux vivre’ (Roméo et Juliette) was followed by Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’ (Gianni Schichi), again leading us into pin-drop territory.  Bernstein’s ‘I Feel Pretty’ (West Side Story) was the perfect segue from opera to the more popular end of town.

Macliver’s operatic credentials are world-renowned, however she has also become a polished performer of modern song, as perfectly demonstrated by ‘Autumn Leaves’, a former chanson by Prévert (words) and Kosma (music), rendered into English by Johnny Mercer. This rendition was joined by a passing train, at first intrusively, but then seeming to blend in, with a perfectly timed ending. Sting’s lovely song ‘Fields of Gold’ (also recently recorded by German Baroque icon Simone Kermes) followed, and the mellow mood continued with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’, a great interpretation.  The mood lifted for the last item, ‘I Could Have Danced all Night’ (My Fair Lady). 

Throughout, Badnall was the perfect participant, one could hardly say accompanist, providing unexpected grace notes, and robust arpeggiatos for the more flamboyant numbers, totally integral to the musical experience. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz was an unexpected, but moving, encore.

Candlelit Soirées run Tuesday – Saturday at Kidogo Arthouse.

Pictured top: Sara Macliver and Caroline Badnall at the first Opera Night in the Candlelit Soirée series. Photo by Joanna Robertson

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Author —
Sandra Bowdler

Sandra Bowdler is an archaeologist who has been writing about music for some twenty years, most recently for Opera magazine (UK), Bachtrack and Handel News. She is also the author of “Handel’s Operas in Australia, a performance history” Händel Jarhbuch (2017). Her favourite piece of playground equipment would be the picnic bench with smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne.

Past Articles

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