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Munro sallies mesmerisingly through Mozart

Roshan Sewpersad

Sally Munro (mezzo-soprano)
Recital given in the Baxter Theatre Centre concert hall on 30 March 2004
With the UCT Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Christopher Dowdeswell
Piano obligato by Graham Fitch

It is truly gratifying to attend performances by internationally acclaimed performing artists at the Baxter — an intimate, relaxed, yet pedagogic space. And even better is that these performances are arranged seemingly with no fuss by the South African College of Music.

Most performers are guests of the College, here to give lectures and master classes, and must be a real treat for the students of the College. Audiences are also not large, comprising mainly university people and friends. In this setting artists are free to improvise, to push limits in the avant-garde direction and to really explore the terrain of art music in their performances.

The mezzo-soprano Sally Munro, a luminary at the San Josť Opera and an academic, is one such artist. Ms Munro, who has performed to great acclaim worldwide, began her career at the English National Opera — a career that has taken her to numerous opera festivals and teaching assignments.

She was quite a sensation as soon as she walked on stage — slight of build, with long blonde hair, neutral make-up and a simple, shoulderless brown velvet gown Ö a peaches and cream English lass. And here she was singing an all-Mozart repertoire, the really classical classical.

She is indeed a delight to watch as much as to listen to. A performer who expresses herself vocally and physically, she uses her entire body as an instrument. While the sounds she produced sounded effortless, watching her musculature and position shift as she approached and attacked notes, always from the diaphragm, left one truly mesmerised. Here was a mature singer who knew what she was doing. In fact, it is always mesmerising to observe an artist at work. While at her best in the upper part of her register, she achieved the lower notes with the technical skill of a true professional.

The programme included concert arias Ch’io mi scordi di te, K.505 and Al Desiro, K.577 together with “Parto Parto” (from Clemenza di Tito) with clarinet obligato and Concert Rondo in D for piano and orchestra.

Graham Fitch, himself a piano maestro, played brilliantly. The UCT Symphony Orchestra was also excellent, executing the numerous obligato passages with a maturity that belied the years of the young musicians.

LitNet: 15 April 2004

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