Freeze Frame warms with finesse and frivolity

23 March 2023

Freeze Frame Opera knows how to please a crowd, getting the balance of humour and superlative singing just right. Bourby Webster has a great night out.

Pavarotti, Piaf & Pavlova, Freeze Frame Opera 
Quarry Amphitheatre, 21 March 2023 

It’s interesting to look back to where Freeze Frame Opera began, seven short years ago, at the Camelot Theatre in Mosman Park, and compare its latest production, Pavarotti, Piaf and Pavlova at the Quarry Amphitheatre. 

The small West Australian company with huge ambitions has matured and evolved, yet never swayed from its ambition to make opera accessible to the masses. 

This two-set evening of songs features global mega stars Rachelle Durkin and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, West Australian leading artists Harriet “Hattie” Marshall, Caitlin Cassidy and Jun Zhang (replacing the advertised Paul O’Neill) and emerging artist Lachlan Higgins, with dancer Luci Young. It’s a delight from start to finish. 

Cleverly programmed, brilliantly directed by the gifted Matt Ward, it is hugely entertaining and, most importantly, wonderfully sung. 

A show that delivers the expected bunch of lovely songs and arias is a good night out. A show that delivers the expected but also includes lots of surprises, banter, and fun is a great night out.  

Jun Zhang kicks it off with ‘Nessun Dorma’. Photo: Maks Pavic

It gets off to an unexpected start as a recorded bell with voice-over announcements and canned audience clapping rings out. The audience waits for a singer to walk on. Instead, a Mini is driven onto the stage, doing a loop before dropping off a dark-suited Zhang waving a white handkerchief. Welcome the titular Pavarotti to kick off with the huge Nessun Dorma – not an easy aria to sing when you’re fully warmed up, let alone opening an evening, but the audience loves it.  

A truly authentic performer, Cassidy is the next Mini drop-off, delivering a stunning Piaf with La Vie en Rose and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. 

When the car returns for a third time, Young steps out carrying a pavlova, which is placed in the centre of the stage in a spotlight, drawing laughs from the picnicking crowd.  

The first half of the program includes major classical arias with works from Mozart, Verdi, Handel and more. The second half steps into cabaret and musical theatre territory, featuring songs from Les Miserables (Tahu Rhodes is magnificent) and the jazzy Fly me to The Moon (sung by charming rising star Higgins, complete with dance moves). 

Durkin is a standout – I can’t take my eyes off her. There is never a moment where a note isn’t felt, considered, placed. Tornami a Vagheggiar from Handel’s Alcina is breathtaking, so outstanding in fact I barely register that Young is dancing around her (with no disrespect at all meant to the clearly talented dancer).  

It’s also wonderful to see Tahu Rhodes so relaxed and enjoying himself. He is a superlative artist with an enormous voice and has a playful air about him – captivating the audience throughout.  

Marshall draws warm applause as she enters to sing Bellini’s Casta Diva from Norma. The FFO founder and creative director’s dedication to making the opera company a major player in the WA arts scene is clearly appreciated. She is also a wonderful talent.  

A trio of musicians support the singers, led by musical director Joe Louis Robinson on keys, with Joe Southwell making his opera debut on double bass, and the sublime cello of Sophie Curtis. It’s a beautiful combination, even if the volume occasionally competes a little too much with singers.   

In an evening that moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, there are plenty of laughs and even more goosebumps. The pavlova provides an inevitable pie-in-face moment towards the end, lyrics tweaked for effect: When the moon hits your eye like a pavlova pie, that’s amore!  

Mission accomplished. This is accessible opera at its best. 

Pavarotti, Piaf and Pavlova is at Quarry Ampitheatre until 23 March 2023.  

Pictured top: Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Rachelle Durkin, Caitlin Cassidy and Jun Zhang deliver the goods. Photo: Maks Pavic

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Author —
Bourby Webster

Bourby Webster is the director of North Street Music – a creative production and artist development company. She is also the founder of Perth Symphony Orchestra. She is a graduate of Oxford University, the Royal College of Music and has an MBA from UWA. She is a professional violist, entrepreneur, concert promoter and producer. She can’t even look at a playground as she suffers chronic motion sickness.

Past Articles

  • Masterful soloists lift the mood

    WASO’s latest program promises intensity but Bourby Webster is surprised by its sense of optimism – and fun. So much so, she could do it all again.

  • Sure hands touch the heart

    Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has been wowing audiences around the world for almost 60 years and this concert is no exception. Bourby Webster savours every moment. 

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