Rossini and the Inverness Choral Society, at Eden Court Empire Theatre , Inverness on the 19th of November, 2016. Review.

Outside it was freezing cold but inside the Empire Theatre Eden Court it was warm.  This was not just due to the heating alone, rather it was due to the interesting selection of works from sunny Italy the Inverness Choral Society had chosen for their autumn recital.

The concert featured a selection of choruses and arias from Italian opera, mainly composed by Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792 –1868), but also including works by Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti and Mascagni.  For the evening the Society were joined by the soprano Colleen Nicoll, the mezzo- soprano Marion Ramsay, the tenor Emanuel Heitz and the baritone Phil Gault.  Shelia Bruce provided piano accompaniment with Robin Versteeg playing the harmonium.  The conductor was Gordon Tocher.

In his career Rossini composed many classic operas including William Tell and the Barber of Seville.  He is not normally associated with the mass setting and for the first part of evening the choir gave a performance of his Petite Messe Solennelle which was composed in 1863.

This was a very interesting piece – in parts solemn, in others quite facetious, overall however it presents a valid representation of an ecclesiastical work – the mass as opera.  Like Jane Austen who rarely strayed beyond defined boundaries Rossini appears to have set himself the task of writing the mass in the same way as he wrote the rest of his music.  The choir presented the work extremely well giving the upbeat sections the treatment they deserved whilst bringing an almost celestial sound to the more introspective parts of the work.  Throughout the piece the soloists were involved as a group and individually and they were also ably supported by the choir in other sections.

Following a short break the choir returned to perform a varied set of operatic selections.  Two Verdi works were performed – The chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Nabucco and Miss Nicoll soloed Saper vorreste from Un ballo in maschera.  Rossini was represented by a very atmospheric O salutaris hostia and Mr Gault soloed a terrific Largo al factotum from the Barber of Seville.  The ambient composer Brian Eno would have been hard put to improve on the lovely rendition the choir gave of the Humming chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.  Mr Heitz gave an exquisite interpretation of Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.  Soloists and choir then joined together for the final piece of the evening which looked forward beyond Christmas to Easter – Mascagni’s Easter hymn from Cavalleria rusticana.

Ms Bruce has been 40 years with the Society and this vast experience shone through throughout the evening – her performance on the piano was outstanding.

The lighting for the performance was very tastefully done with the orange glow of the lights both reflecting the warmth of the performance and also the season – mirroring the fantastic orangey/yellows of the leaves cascading from the trees outside.

All in all another excellent performance from the Choral  Society – look out for their next events – the Carolthon in the Eastgate Centre on Saturday 17th December and on 29th April 2017 when they perform the Magnificant by Bach and Haydn’s ‘Paukenmesse’ (Mass in Time of War)

Thanks to Eden Court for hosting and assisting the reviewer.

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Rob Polson can’t play a note but loves listening to music, especially played live. Likes any sort of music but particularly interested in ambient, early and world music. Being involved with InvernessGigs gives me the opportunity to get out and about and listen to music, try some new beer and also to develop my writing skills.