The newly-formed Ballarat Chamber Opera gave its debut performance in the Anglican cathedral last Saturday evening. Selecting Handel’s secular choral work “Semele”, in a concert performance, gave the company and its excellent guest soloists the opportunity to present a significant work with a real chance of success. The result was a performance which suggests there is a bright future for this fledgling company.
The seven soloists acquitted themselves very well, with Bridget Davies in the role of Juno displaying particularly strong theatrical skills. In the title role soprano Michelle McCarthy presented the complexity of her character superbly while tenor Christopher Roache, as Jupiter, showed again why he is in much demand for baroque music. The rapport between Semele and Jupiter in Act Two was a highlight.
The small chorus, comfortably conducted by Helen Duggan, made the most of the opportunity to project a big sound, with very few issues on the journey. The choral texture would have benefitted with a larger ensemble but the choir’s narrative was effectively delivered.
The entire work was accompanied by organist Calvin Bowman who demonstrated not only the outstanding musicianship required but also the awareness to stay connected to the singers who were not always in sight. It was a flawless performance.
Artistic director Christine Heald, who sang the part of Ino, deserves credit for her vision and skill in successfully putting this company together and producing such a positive result on debut.