Australia : February 2012

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The following two reports are from Sydney and Perth.  We didn’t attend the Melbourne concert.

Sydney

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Sydney Opera House _ _

Sunday 26th February
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Russell returned to Sydney with a truly magnificent performance at the iconic Opera House.  He came on stage and drank in the emotion of the moment before saying just how happy he was to be back in one of the venues that, at one point, he thought he would never see again.  He’s used the expression, “I’m singing out of my skin” in the past; well, he’s shed his skin and transcended whatever it was he was doing before and let rip… this was singing like we’ve never heard from him.

Maybe it’s the new Souster & Hicks suits that he was sporting – the ones that let him breathe more freely.  Maybe it’s just that he’s enjoying what he’s doing.

Anyway, here’s the ‘playlist’ –

Somewhere
Caruso
Intermezzo  (from Cavelleria Rusticana)
20th Century Suite (Rob Emery, Orchestra & Choir)
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Volare
Funiculi Funicula
Interval
Phantom Suite (Rob Emery, Orchestra & Choir) leading into
Music Of The Night
and duet
All I Ask Of You  (with Greta Bradman)
Va, pensiero
The Prayer  (with Greta Bradman)
Pie Jesu    (Greta Bradman)
Parla Piu Piano
Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)
Summertime     (Greta Bradman) 
You’ll Never Walk Alone
The Impossible Dream
Nessun Dorma!
Encores –
Can’t Help Falling In Love
O Sole Mio
Toreodore
Bring Him Home
Someone To Remember Me

It was interesting to note that Russell sang Parla Piu Piano and Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te) in Italian although he recorded them in English on the Australian ‘La Voce’ CD release.

Greta BradmanRussell’s special guest on this all too brief tour was Greta Bradman and she was just about wonderful… so pure a voice and such clear diction.

We made certain to get a copy of her CD, “Grace“, from the stall.

The Australian Metropolitan Orchestra, with orchestra leader Maria Lindsay, and choir ‘Cantillation’ were under the baton of (Sir) Robert D. C. Emery and they really produced a magnificent sound.

We only wished that this concert could have been filmed for a DVD, as Russell was clearly loving every minute.

He scaled new heights, too.  After jumping down from the fairly high stage to go walkabout with Volare he was given a ladder to climb back up, leaving Rob – as usual – to keep the orchestra holding the note while Russell sorted himself out and got his breath back for the final ‘oh oh oh ohhh’.  Oh, and he got a bag of Jelly Babies!

The audience got a rare treat when, during O Sole Mio, Russell suddenly had Rob Emery stop the music.  In the silence, he stepped smartly around the microphone stand to the very front of the stage and belted out the rest of the stanza without musical accompaniment and wthout any amplification, filling the auditorium with his voice alone! Stunning!

It  was a great night, made all the more special because many Russellers who have ‘chatted’ via the forums or on Facebook met one another for the first time and can now ‘put faces to names’.  On top of that, those who were patient and waited at the Stage Door were delighted when, first, Maria Lindsay stopped for a chat on her way out, then Greta Bradman did likewise and then Rob Emery stopped for photos and ‘signing’ and also let folks have a close-up look at his baton!

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Finally, Russell also came out for a chat and photo opportunity.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the night such a special one.

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Perth

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Burswood Theatre
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Tuesday 28th February

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You start to worry a bit when a theatre is only about three-quarters full (the circle was completely empty) and there’s no signs of even the orchestra coming on some 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, particularly when not a few of those who had turned up looked a bit disinterested anyway.  My first thought, after dismissing worries about his health, was that Russell would be earning his supper just like the old days in the clubs!
There was no dressing or interesting lighting to brighten a thoroughly drab stage and the relatively small orchestra looked like “a pea on a drum”, somewhat lost with a lot of dark empty space around them.  The whole setting was rather bare and disappointing.

The show eventually began around twenty past eight with Rob Emery taking his almost ‘trademark’ barefoot running leap onto the podium.  They’re not used to such antics, apparently, and it drew gasps of surprise from the audience.  Perhaps they were just stunned by Rob’s dramatic entry but Russell was greeted with only rather polite applause (apart from one or two – you’ll know who – who stood up for him) and, after opening with Somewhere, again to only light applause, and then Panis Angelicus to a much warmer response, Russell explained the delay by saying that he’d picked up an infection and had been recommended not to perform. So, that was me wrong again… it was a health issue after all.  It had, therefore, come down to a last minute decision but he wasn’t about to disappoint people again (the concert having been postponed in November by the promoter).  He said he might not hit some of his top notes as well as he might like but he was sipping lemon tea with ginger (and whiskey?) to try to soothe his throat.

The ‘playlist’ was slightly different tonight –

Somewhere
Panis Angelicus
Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana
John Barry Suite (Rob Emery, Orchestra & Choir)
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Volare
Funiculi Funicula
Interval
Phantom Suite (Rob Emery, Orchestra & Choir)
leading into
Music Of The Night
and duet
All I Ask Of You  (with Greta Bradman)
Va, pensiero
Impossible Dream
Pie Jesu    (Greta Bradman)
Summertime    (Greta Bradman)
Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Nessun Dorma!
Encores –
Can’t Help Falling In Love
Torreodore
Bring Him Home
Someone To Remember Me

Rob again conducted the Australian Metropolital Orchestra, though their composition had changed slightly from the Sydney performance, and the choir tonight was drawn from members of St.George’s Cathedral Consort. After Panis Angelicus was well received, the audience responded with even more enthusiasm to Intermezzo.

When Russell was ‘rehearsing’ the audience in how to join in the chorus of Volare there was clearly a strong tenor in the audience and Russell said that if he should struggle with Nessun Dorma, later on, he’d be asking that gentleman for assistance!  Then, as he does, he went walkabout during Volare but the audience reaction was quite muted and reserved.  Maybe they just didn’t want to catch his chest infection!  However, he soldiered on, meeting and greeting with handshakes and hugs.  He made his way from the side aisle along one of the rows of seats and came up behind the the tenor who had impressed him earlier; having him stand up and join in with a few bars before applauding him seemed to break the ice and the audience’s response was much more cordial after that.  They also found Rob’s long wait, keeping the orchestra on note, quite amusing.

It wasn’t too difficult after that to get everyone clapping along with Finiculi Funicula and the little dance routine that Russell and Rob have developed, culminating with Rob doing a full 360 degree pirouette from a standing start, drew a great cheer.  By the time Russell left the stage at the end of the first half it was clear he’d worked his magic again and the audience had really taken to him.

It was most encouraging to see that, as the audience were taking their seats again for the second half, many of them were bringing in copies of the ‘La Voce’ CD and ‘Return Of The Voice’ DVD.

After the interval Russell continued sipping the lemon-and-ginger tea and you wouldn’t have known he had a sore throat at all.

Greta Bradman was an absolute delight again.

When he reached Nessun Dorma, Russell said, “This is the one I’ve been dreading” but he didn’t hold back – does he ever – and that final ‘Vincero’ had just about everyone up on their feet to applaud and cheer.

By the time he had sung Toreadore as his second encore the audience wasn’t applauding lightly, they were shouting for “More…More…” and stamping their feet, no longer the dour bunch he’d had at the start.

When he finally left the stage after Someone To Remember Me he punched the air in victory just as he disappeared into the wings.

“Cracked it!”

Still got the magic, sore throat and all.

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Reviews –

The Ticketmaster (Australia) website has several pages of excellent comments and reviews from concert-goers (scroll down below the ticket sales box).

At Sydney, Russell impressed Tomas Boot, writing for  ‘ArtsHub‘,  but we don’t think he was thrilled by the fans.  Oh dear, never mind.

Laura Morris for The West Australian enjoyed the show at Perth.

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