Sumi Jo and José Carbó: Mad for Love review [Melbourne]

Treasured soprano Sumi Jo brought her Mad for Love Australian tour to Melbourne Recital Centre with special guest baritone José Carbó.

Sumi Jo’s glamour and style are a key aspect of any concept appearance, and the smiling diva did not disappoint with her decadent wardrobe in Mad for Love. Jo initially graced the stage in a grand gown of blood red with matching ruby necklace. Jo next stepped out in dramatic black with violet trim, set off with glittering diamanté choker. After interval, Jo bounced on stage in a dress adorned with clusters of fairy floss pink tulle, before changing to a slinky pink number with layers of metallic gold fringing.

In stunning vocal form, Jo dazzled with her faultless musical precision and thrilling range. The highest of high notes were elegantly sung with seemingly effortless flair, allowing the audience to relax with supreme confidence in Jo’s artistry. Jo’s exquisite soprano filled Elizabeth Murdoch Hall with sweet sound; the venue also proved ideal for Jo’s beautifully controlled pianissimi notes.

Jo immerses herself in arias and art songs alike, richly colouring her vocals with myriad emotions. Auber’s “Laughing Song” (Manon Lescaut) was an early example of Jo’s outpouring of personality through music, as well as exemplifying the precision of her voice as a musical instrument.

Jo opened the second half with a pair of neatly contrasting Korean arias, selling the relatively unfamiliar music with such tenderness that it was impossible not to be moved. While “Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande” (Die Fledermaus) was a showstopper, Jo’s grand finale of the “Mad Scene” from I Puritaniensured a spectacular finish.

In a splendid partnership of talent, Jo was joined in concert by Argentinian-born baritone José Carbó, a frequent performer on the Opera Australia stage. Known for his charismatic presence in operatic roles, Carbó proved a wonderful showman in concert, surely winning himself new fans along the way.

Elisabeth Murdoch Hall picked up all the rich resonance of Carbó’s warmly burnished baritone, allowing his voice to be heard at its very best. Carbó amused with his opening aria, “Largo al Factotum” (The Barber of Seville). Sighs of pleasure could be heard across the audience during Carbó’s romantic rendition of “Because You’re Mine.”

José Carbó in La Traviata (Opera Australia)

One of the great pleasures in seeing two great artists in concert is when the pair sings together. Jo and Carbó ended the first half with a charming performance of “Pronta Io Son” (Don Pasquale). “Love Unspoken” (The Merry Widow) brought the chance for playful flirting and a touch of waltzing. “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” (Porgy and Bess) was a suitably sumptuous final duet.

Crucial to the refined musical pleasure on show was prolific musician, conductor and accompanist Guy Noble. In the absence of any surtitles, Noble’s genial introduction, spoken in dulcet tones, added the personal touch to bring the audience into the heart of the program. On grand piano, Noble seamlessly switched between genres, composers, continents and time periods, proving master of all and deftly balancing his work between surreptitious support and nimble showmanship. Noble also proved a great sport by joining Jo for Rossini’s “Cat Duet” (cat ears and all), which was Jo’s first encore.

Mad for Love was a charming evening of truly lovely music.

Sumi Jo and Jose Carbo: Mad for Love played at Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre 7.30pm Tuesday 17 July 2018. Mad for Loveplays in Sydney 19 July 2018 and Brisbane 21 July 2018.

Photos: #3 Branco Gaica

Categories: Opera, Reviews

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9 replies »

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Sumi and Jose’s Melbourne concert Simon…..it was indeed a treat and I can only imagine the beauty of sound in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. It seems however that I should have followed the duo to Melbourne as their song list deviated from Adelaide’s and included some gems I would have loved to have heard .e.g Because You’re Mine and Bess,You is my Woman Now . Sumi’s final song in Adelaide was the sublimely sung Gianni Schicchi aria – O My Beloved Father…always a big crowd pleaser. I wonder what extra treats Sydney and Brisbane can expect ?

    • A wonderful night indeed Edward. I think it took me the first two songs just to process the sound of Sumi Jo’s voice – just extraordinary.
      The Gianni Schicchi aria was also Jo’s second encore last night.
      Looked at the Adelaide song list, I think that you saw more top opera selections. I’m jealous of the Adelaide concert with Orchestra!

  2. Yes the full Symphony was extraordinary, especially in its solo pieces.
    We are lucky too that they always accompany the Australian Ballet and State Opera performances in Adelaide.
    It’s always great to hear a ballet score in full flight.
    Who accompanied Sumi + Jose in Melbourne ?
    Forgot to thank you for the impressive image of Jose in the Sumi review …..could almost be Jean Valjean’s final scene in Les Miz
    …..I wish !

  3. Interesting review. I reacted to it rather differently. Jose Carbo was indeed just marvellous. Rich acting, total control and confidence, beautiful sounds and connecting with his audience. Guy Noble was the perfect accompanist – controlled, supportive, and fine secure technique.

    Sumi Jo I did not enjoy so much. This was the first time I’ve heard her (in any medium) and her reputation promised much. But I found her interpretations not very musical (or at least not shaped the way I find satisfying), her acting stilted, almost mechanical, and her voice limited in colour and power (of less importance). I kept awaiting that moment of connection with her, but it never happened for me. I was, however, able to admire some of her vocal agility and ability to remain perfectly in pitch during solo excursions from the piano.

    Interestingly, my partner, not steeped in the world of classical music, reacted exactly the same way.

    Ah well, the marvel of subjectivity 🙄

    • I definitely agree about the lack of connection between Sumi Jo and her audience. It was also my first time hearing her, and I was quite dazzled by her voice at first impression. I felt she differentiated between musical styles quite well.
      It was interesting to hear the audience slightly favour Carbo in their applause/cheers. Most would have been there for Sumi Jo, So Carbo’s performance would have been a very pleasant surprise. I hope he has the chance to do more concert work.

      • Yes agreed she did move well- and differentiate between styles. I would certainly like to hear more of Carbo, reading about him his career hAs mainly been in opera, but he seemed very at ease on the solo the concert hall (admittedly repertoire that he is presumably largely very familiar with). I think there was a joy within his performance and that easily reached out to his audience

      • In the Adelaide performance too the audience was initially more enthusiastic with applause for Jose’s songs but this seemed to even out in the 2nd half as Sumi engaged the audience more with a more relaxed repertoire. Her very funny malfunction with the paper fan won us all !

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