By Purnima Pilapitiya
Sunday, February 18, 2018
In celebration of Sri Lanka’s 70 years of independence, internationally acclaimed opera star Danielle de Niese took to the stage together with the Krasna Ensemble to pay homage to the country of her family’s roots. The concert presented by the Colombo Cultural Hub on February 10 at the BMICH saw Danielle’s dedicated fan base of opera and music lovers flocking to see her, in what was only her second appearance in Sri Lanka.
Born to Sri Lankan parents Chris and Beverley de Niese who had migrated to Australia when they were very young, Danielle’s relationship with Sri Lanka has been limited to the two visits she has been able to make in the recent past, she explained to the audience. But the warmth and personal connection she created across the stage whether she was singing, encouraging and acknowledging the orchestra, or the rare moment she spoke, captivated the vast auditorium enveloping her in an aura that was familiarly Sri Lankan.
The two part programme consisted of a first half dedicated to an operatic repertoire followed by a selection of classics from Broadway musicals. In between the vocal performances were orchestral pieces performed by the Krasna Ensemble led by Ananda Dabare which added to the show’s variety.
Dubbed “Opera’s coolest soprano” by the New York Times Magazine, Danielle showcased not only her rich and evocative singing style, but also captured the hearts of the audience members with her expressive performances. The selection of operatic pieces by Mozart, Bizet and Gounod may not have been wholly familiar to the entire audience but her vivaciously natural theatricality brought to life pieces such as the Prelude to Act 3 from Carmen, the Habanera and the Adieux of the Arab Hostess.
As pointed out by classical music aficionados, such as Lilamani Dias Benson, the venue may have been a drawback in what was otherwise a memorable show. Despite being the ideal location for logistical reasons, the BMICH conference hall styled auditorium’s acoustics did little for the singer who was without a mic in the first half, slight fatigue showing in subtle moments, though still creating an intimate experience for her rapt audience.
The second half of the concert picked up the pace with Broadway staples from Carousel and Les Miserables, the latter, a musical Danielle had also been a part of in the early days of her career. Her powerful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” and moving delivery of Piaf’s classic “La Vie en Rose” which shifted smoothly from expression to expression, created an atmosphere of old Hollywood and nostalgia for the audience members regardless of age.
The show culminated in a much deserved standing ovation and finally, there was the opportunity to hear her speak- as delightful as watching her sing which the audience had been waiting impatiently for. While several performers do include anecdotes and explanations between performances, that would have been more relevant coming from Danielle herself, many felt.
From her glamorous costumes, to her sparkling, warm personality and golden voice, Danielle de Niese treated her Colombo audience to a new level of performance, ably supported by the Krasna Ensemble, giving one and all a clear idea as to why her star is on the ascent in the international operatic scene.