Young soubrette delivers an opera treat

MUSIC lovers who attended the final Classics Castle concert of the year will be able to say they got to hear 22-year-old soubrette Emma Farquharson before she became an international star.

SONGBIRD: Soubrette soprano Emma Farquharson, accompanied by pianist Garreth Robertson, delighted the audience at Sunday’s Classics at the Castle at Richmond House Picture: JON HOUZET

Hearing this songbird, who is still growing and developing as an opera performer, was such a treat. She has a beautiful voice which did justice to classics and more contemporary fare alike.

Farquharson’s show was called Opera Found, which she explained was due to her own journey of musical appreciation.

“When I was 10 years old, whenever my mom played opera in the house, I would walk around with my fingers in my ears,” she said with a laugh.

She was however always interested in singing, and took choral lessons as a young girl. Her appreciation of opera blossomed when she started at Rhodes University and took voice training lessons from voice coach and international soprano Jo-Nette le Kay.

“I just marvelled at how my voice began to change with all the weird exercises I was made to do, and how I moved from being a lyric soprano, to a soubrette, to a coloratura in-the-making,” Farquharson said.

Opera Found was her solo debut at this year’s National Arts Festival, and comprises operatic and classical arias, German art songs, operetta and Spanish folk songs.

She said the opera pieces were scattered through the programme, giving another meaning to “finding opera”.

Accompanied by accomplished pianist Garreth Robertson, Farquharson began the show with Mozart’s Giunse alfin il momento from the Marriage of Figaro. She said the song had a special place in her heart as it was the first one she sang with an orchestra.

Her stunning voice was instantly mesmerising as she began to sing.

Operas tell stories often involving unrequited love, disguise and betrayal, and it was useful reading the little introductions provided in the programme by Classics at the Castle host Sue Gordon. It helped to understand the emotion in the songs.

Farquharson continued with Tornami a vagheggiar by Handel, then Auch Kleine Dinge by Hugo Wolf.

Props are also part of the performance, and Farquharson clutched various bouquets or a fan, and wore a ballroom mask in her performance of Mein Herr Marquis (aka Adele’s Laughing Song) from Die Fledermaus.

She also explained, and demonstrated, how important facial expressions and acting are in many of these performances.

Thrown into the delightful mix was Edith Piaf’s haunting and beautiful La Vie en Rose.

Puccini’s Quando m’en vo from La Boheme was also masterfully delivered by the young soubrette, who said she had only moved to that category of voice in the middle of this year.

She described it as a young voice who plays coy and flirtatious characters in opera, but is still strong enough to be heard over the orchestra.

“I’m already moving beyond that to a coloratura”­ – a type of operatic soprano voice that specialises in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.

My personal favourite in Farquharson’s performance was her Neapolitan medley of Santa Lucia, Malinconia Ninfa Gentile, and Nella Fantasia.

Nella Fantasia is a particularly beautiful tune, based on the theme Gabriel’s Oboe, composed by Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission. Lyrics were added by Chiara Ferraù. It is the kind of music that brings tears to your eyes.


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