Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Combattimento
Peninsula Summer Music Festival
St James the Less, Mount Eliza
January 4

ONE of the major events at this festival celebrated the innovatory genius of Claudio Monteverdi with three madrigals, the opening pages to the opera L'Orfeo, and the extended scena Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. While admiring the musicianship of this program's four singers - soprano Greta Bradman, tenors Paul Bentley and Justin Burwood, and the under-used bass Nick Dinopoulos - the musicians of that exemplary period-music ensemble Ludovico's Band took much of the evening's honours in a rather elementary way by staying in tune.

Friday's high temperature made performing (and listening) conditions trying, even more so because of the direct style of address employed by the string players, in particular Rachael Beesley and Julia Fredersdorff's violins and the multi-stringed theorbos of Tommie Andersson and Samantha Cohen. In fact, the music-making remained at a consistent, professional level throughout. Bradman presented a hefty reading of the opera prologue, although the main singing responsibilities fell on Bentley who, as narrator Testo, produced an extended solo in the story of the inter-gender battle from Tasso's vision of the First Crusade.

All three males combined with compelling macho enthusiasm for Lamento della ninfa, occasionally overshadowing the more plaintive strophes of Bradman's line. Burwood helped us forget any physical discomfort with a velvet-smooth reading of Si dolce e'l tormento, to which the tenor-duet version of Zefiro torna made a finely-judged complement, vocalists and band infusing this enthusiastic, if ironic, construct with supple phrasing and a bracing dynamic vigour.