Carl Rafferty

Eye for beauty: Carl Rafferty, producer and director of Opera by Candlelight. Photo: Melissa Adams

Opera Ron Cerabona

 

Opera by Candlelight 2014. Presented by Carl Rafferty. The Albert Hall. Friday and Saturday, February  7 and 8, are banquet nights,   all seats $60.  Sunday, February 9 is theatre-style seating with buffet supper,  concert begins at 6pm. All seats $80. Bookings: carlrafferty@bigpond.com

Now in its sixth year, Opera by Candlelight offers opera-starved Canberrans sustenance for the soul as well as the stomach. Producer and director Carl Rafferty calls it ‘‘a night of opera highlights presented in a unique banquet performance, a celebration of opera, beauty, food and music’’.

Audience members can, depending on which performance they attend, bring their own food and drink or enjoy what’s on offer as an accompaniment to the musical feast.

As usual, Rafferty has looked both in Australia and abroad to choose his singers, whom he will conduct from the piano while leading an eight-piece band.

‘‘I’m very interested in young singers who have the bloom of youth, who have sparkle and are beautiful,’’ Rafferty says. He wants both the voices and  their possessors to be appealing.

‘‘I’m really fussy about only having good-looking people in my shows. Call me shallow if you like.’’

Among the 18 artists who made the grade and are performing in 2014 are  Polish soprano Aleksandra Wiwala,   tenors James Adams from New Zealand and Michael Johnson from Sydney and coloratura soprano Kate Rafferty. Baritone and director of the ANU School of Music Peter Tregear will have a ‘‘guest spot’’ performing Don Pizarro’s aria Ha! welch ein Augenblick! from Beethoven’s Fidelio.

They’ve been rehearsing in Sydney, particularly for the benefit of the Europeans in the cast who have come from the depths of winter in Europe.

 ‘‘They like the beach.’’

To continue the culinary theme, Rafferty says, ‘‘The first half is the main course, the second half is meringue.’’

The program begins with excerpts from famous operas and after the interval focuses on operetta, mostly from Vienna, and gypsy music. There will be arias, ensembles and orchestral pieces. This year there wil be music from  composers who have not been featured in previous Opera by Candlelight productions, with two excerpts from Massenet’s Manon and a couple from   Fidelio.

Among the best-known pieces in the first half are Un bel di from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and the Toreador’s Song, Flower Song, Seguidilla and Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen.

The second half will feature, among other items,  You Are My Heart’s Delight from The Land of Smiles and The Merry Widow Waltz, both by Lehar. There will also be excerpts from Verdi’s Aida, Il Trovatore, Nabucco and Rigoletto, Gounod’s Faust and Delibes’ Lakme.

Rafferty says the Verdi choruses – the Triumphal March from Aida and Va pensiero  from Nabucco – ‘‘will be pretty extraordinary with all these great voices’’.