A glorious labour of love

2014-02-20 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG-BORN soprano, Sally Silver, is returning home this weekend to perform on the stage of the City Hall, as part of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Viennese Nights concert.

Silver now lives in London with her husband, Jeremy, who will be conducting the orchestra on Saturday, February 22, told The Witness that the performance would be a dream come true.

“I am over the moon to be making my solo debut in my hometown. I performed in the Messiah chorus there many years ago but singing as an international soprano will be very emotional for me,” she added.

Silver, whose maiden name was Stokoe, is also thrilled that her performance can be shared with her husband. “It will be one of my most treasured memories to make and share with him,” she said.

Silver began singing when she was a pupil at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School. She performed with the Natal Youth Choir and in all her school productions.

Her first professional production was Puccini’s one-act comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, at the Playhouse in Durban in 1990, during which she sang the beautiful aria, O mio babbino caro (Oh, My Beloved Father).

She also performed with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic in a number of Philharmonic Rock concerts, and sang with the then Natal Performing Arts Council (Napac) Chorus and in the Opera Studio at the Playhouse as a student at the Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology).

Since moving overseas in 1998 her career has taken flight.

Commanding a repertoire that spans the operatic heroines of Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Handel, romantic rarities by English, French and Irish composers, and newly commissioned works, Silver has been praised by The Times of London for her “magnificently variegated and tireless soprano” and described by The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom as “dazzling and stylish”.

With Scottish Opera she performed in Lucia di Lammermoor, I puritani and Handel’s Orlando, and appeared with English National Opera as Ännchen in Der Freischütz and Mila in the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Palace in the Sky.

Other operatic appearances include performing at the Longborough Festival Opera, performing the title role in Gounod’s Mireille at Cadogan Hall, Handel’s Amadigi at Wigmore Hall, The Fairy Godmother in Massenet’s Cendrillon for Blackheath Halls Opera and, for Music Theatre Wales, multiple roles in Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek at the Buxton.

Elsewhere in Europe, she has sung in operas ranging from Rigoletto and La Traviata to Les Huguenots, Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Thomas Adès’ Powder Her Face.

On Saturday evening, classical music fans can look forward to hearing Silver perform a selection of operetta by Strauss (from Die Fledermaus), Puccini and Lehar.

“One of the songs is a fun comical aria about a maid who is dressed in her mistresses clothes. She is playing a joke on her flirting master who thinks she is the maid,” she said.

“Then I will do a seductive operetta aria about wives playing jokes on their husbands by trying to seduce their other half while dressed up in disguise and finally a gorgeous Puccini song about love triumphing over riches.

“It is included in the programme as it was commissioned by a Viennese theatre but failed to premiere there due to the outbreak of World War One. There is a sumptuous piano part so it had to be featured as a Christopher Duigan and Sally Silver tour de force.”

Asked if any of the songs she was performing were favourites, Silver said: “I think Doretta’s Dream [from Puccini’s opera La Rondine] is a glorious one and having watched Jeremy conduct the whole opera in London, it is close to my heart. I do love the cheeky and sexy Viennese arias as well.”

Asked what advice she had for young would-be opera singers, the singer said “Glamour is one percent of the job, the rest is a labour of love, sacrifice and dedication. You need to be consumed by this vocation.”

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