Triumphant return to St Paul's by Anna Leese

Soprano Anna Leese sings to a large audience at St Paul's Cathedral as part of the 2018 Arts...
Soprano Anna Leese sings to a large audience at St Paul's Cathedral as part of the 2018 Arts Festival yesterday. PHOTOS: PETER MCINTOSH
Dunedin-based international operatic soprano Anna Leese joined local pianist and internationally renowned accompanist Terence Dennis in an outstanding recital of art songs and operatic arias in St Paul's Cathedral yesterday. The very large audience was totally enthralled, and I overheard a comment - "Where else in the world could you hear a performance of that standard for $15?"

Leese announced her programme entitled "Darkness and Light'' as reflecting our encounters in life.

The interpretation of her chosen works was indeed straight from the heart, in familiar acoustics where she had sung as a young chorister and was also her marriage venue.

Three Schubert lieder included Nacht und Traume - where piano accompaniment produced rumbling distant thunder-like textures over which soared pure flute-like soprano resonance - and Gretchen am Spinnrade, where Leese displayed an incredible palette of climactic focus and subtle shadings.

Three Richard Strauss songs included Cacilie, when Dennis became a virtual 10-finger orchestra, and the vocal climax filled the cathedral with unbelievable resonance.

Six contrasting songs from Poulenc's The Whimsical Betrayal set French text in various scenarios, including a very descriptive My Corpse is As Soft As a Glove and a charmingly seductive interpretation of Violin.

Leese revelled in Canteloube's popular Bailero as Dennis' "orchestral skills'' moved into overdrive.

Two Puccini operatic favourites completed the programme - emotive "dark'' aria "Vissi D'arte'' from Tosca and an ardent rendition of "Quando m'en vo'' from La Boheme.

This was magnificent recital from two of our country's top musicians.

 - Elizabeth Bouman

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