Penny Pavlakis Performs Concert Along With Opera Beirut’s Soloists
Three soloists from Opera Beirut accompanied Australian soprano Penny Pavlakis and pianist Olga Bolun performed a concert on Saturday at Saint Joseph University amphitheater in Beirut. Of the 15 home-grown opera singers who make up the local ensemble, three were selected to join Pavlakis and Olgun at the one-day fundraising concert, held under the patronage of former first lady Mona Hrawi, according to the Daily Star.
“This concert is not about me. It’s about the very talented young Lebanese opera singers who need your support to serve as your ambassadors of culture all over the world,” said Pavlakis, who began her singing career in 1984.
Pavlakis, who is of Greek origin, has been living in Lebanon with her Lebanese-born husband and manager Wayne and their daughter Jamileh since 1999. A member of the National Australian Opera, Pavlakis was asked to extend her knowledge of opera overseas, choosing Lebanon because there was not an opera ensemble in existence and because it would give her a chance to live in her husband’s homeland.
By January 2001, Opera Beirut was born, and by April they were performing arias from La Boheme, Rigoletto and Eugenen Onegin. Since then Pavlakis has been training and developing the skills of instructors at the National Conservatory of Music. She has performed a blend of fusion, classical and contemporary opera at local music festivals, including last summer’s Byblos International Festival.
On Saturday, Pavlakis and Opera Beirut performed arias from 10 operas, including Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Turandot, La Boheme and Madam Butterfly, as well as Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Tchaikovsky’s Eugenen Onegin and Puccini’s Tu Che Di Gel Sei Cinta from Turandot.
Her vibrant portrayal of Gioacchino Rossini’s Una Voce Poco Fa from the Barber of Seville, interspersed with multicolored dramatic and musical interludes, revealed Pavlakis’ skill in teasing the audience into imagining her on stage with other performers in a full-stage production of the performance. Without costumes, props or fancy stage decoration, the singers held the audience’s focus with their presence and voices.
Pavlakis carefully introduced the first of the Lebanese soloists, as if she were entrusting her son to the audience’s hands.
“I hope you will welcome him as you have welcomed me because he is a talent like the other singers from Opera Beirut. They are all Lebanese, they are all yours,” the daily quoted Pavlakis as saying.
With the proud composure of a true soloist, Wadih Abi Raad, who has been with the Opera company since its inception, stirred the audience from the first syllables of his first solo aria: a passionate rendition from Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon.
Muriel Antoury, a mezzo soprano, gave an elegant performance of Stride La Vampa! from Guiseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, and Camille Hannah, the ensemble’s tenor, captivated the audience with a passionate rendition from Jules Massenet.
Pavlakis also sang more popular opera renditions, including selections from My Fair Lady and West Side Story, to the delight of the audience some of whom quietly sang along with her.
Soave Sia Il Vento, from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, sung by Pavlakis, Abi Raad and Antoury, gave the audience a pleasant taste of just how good an Opera Beirut performance could be. Hugging one another after a standing ovation and encore, all the performers sang Libiam’ Libiam’ from Verdi’s Traviata.
Pavlakis told The Daily Star that she is determined to continue her dream and breed a generation of talented Lebanese opera singers, no matter how long it takes – Albawaba.com
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