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.”
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