Review – Virtuoso in the school hall absolute treat

Kavanagh Auditorium
23 May 2015

There was prolonged applause and a standing ovation from the capacity audience in Kavanagh College Auditorium at Saturday evening’s concert by St Kilda Brass (conductor Peter Adams) and its magnificent guest, internation tenor Simon O’Neill.

Now considered by many to be the best Heldenenor of our time, O’Neill began studying voice at the University of Otago in 1990, when he also played in St Kilda Brass, so this was an occasion to return for a concert night out with his old band.

The band opened strongly with La Forza del Destino Overture, then O’Neill gave a taste of what was to come with Pucini’s aria Che Gelida Manina.

Informal chat and introductions to items endeared him to his audience, and no doubt also helped relax John McAdam (baritone horn), who stepped out front to provide solo companion passages for another popular Italian aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima.

Four great Wagner arias followed. Winterstrume, from Die Walkure, and Brunhilde! Helige Braut! were accompanied with brass band arrangements by Adams, generally matching the intensely powerful drama of the texts.

Big brass fanfares and speeding scalic cornets launched the second half of the concert in a thrilling arrangement of Festive Overture, by Shostakovich.

The remainder of the programme featured O’Neill with popular songs such as Panis Angelicus, Maria from West Side Story, and Danny Boy.

O’Neill in his original red jacket and cap, delighted with a solo baritone horn spot as the band rocked out I Got Rhythm. But the surpreme highlight came with Puccini’s Nessum dorma – not once, but twice for the enthralled audience.

What an unbelievable and absolute treat to hear O’Neill singing in a local school auditorium with the same drama and passion he would accord performances in the world’s greatest opera venues.

Elizabeth Bouman
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (May 25, 2015)

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