IT has taken more than a dozen years to get internationally renowned star Anthony Warlow to Beechworth for the first time.
On Saturday night, neither a freshening breeze interfering with the microphones, nor a brief power blackout halfway through the program was going to deny the audience the pleasure of seeing Warlow take command of the stage at this year’s Opera in the Alps.
There were bushfires to the north and east of Beechworth’s Baarmutha Park and the heatwave conditions of the previous four days were also no deterrent to the audience of more than 4500 people.
Organisers pushed the starting time back about 20 minutes to allow the full benefit of a mild cool change to take effect and to ensure those on stage weren’t blinded by the setting sun.
The director of Australian Music Events, Graeme Wall, was a happy man yesterday after Saturday night’s concert was declared an outstanding success.
“We were very relieved the gods were on our side,” Mr Wall said.
“It turned out to be a beautiful evening.”
Twenty-four participants in the Opera Scholars Australia program opened the concert with the Villagers’ Chorus from the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, making their way to the stage down the centre aisle as audience favourite Guy Noble conducted the Alpha Sinfonia orchestra.
The scholars were the focus of the early part of the program, with three finalists for the Opera Scholar of the Year award, Kiran Rajasingam, Rebecca Gulinello and Jessica Boyd, all offering the audience their credentials in the next three items.
With a flourish paying respects to his musical theatre background, Warlow then took to the stage while singing the opening lines from Pure Imagination, best known and written specifically by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Fresh from 16 months playing billionaire Daddy Warbucks in the Broadway revival of Annie and a New York winter, Warlow joked he had gone from “two degrees to 64,000 degrees” for his Beechworth debut and channelled another Phantom, Michael Crawford, in his most famous comic role as Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’s Frank Spencer, as he spoke of his passion for the work of comedian Jack Benny.
He sang another Bricusse/Newley composition, What Kind of Fool Am I?, before welcoming to the stage his former singing partner in Phantom of the Opera, Julie Lea Goodwin for their opening duet, Bei Mannern from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Goodwin and Warlow showed their classical credentials; she with the beautiful Rigoletto aria Caro Nome and then together with Mozart’s La Ci Darem La Mano from Don Giovanni, in a taste of the outstanding pairing we would see more of in the program’s second half.
After the break, Warlow and Goodwin revived the success of the more than 200 performances they sang together in the starring roles in Phantom of the Opera, with the duet The Journey.
It was followed soon after by Edge of Time from Lucy Simon’s Dr Zhivago.
Warlow paid tribute to maestro Tommy Tycho, the inaugural conductor of Opera in the Alps, ahead of singing Tycho’s arrangement of the swing number Nobody’s Baby.
He then joined with the scholars’ ensemble to sing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, and a show-stopping encore with the ensemble and Goodwin of All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera.
It was a finale that left an appreciative audience sated.
And also hoping for the opportunity to see Warlow back in Beechworth without having to wait another decade or more.