Shortly before last evening’s concert by the Bulawayo Municipal Orchestra, under Hugh Fenn, I was warned that the visiting bass soloist, Father Fernand Girard, was fighting a severe cold and had even lost his voice in the morning.
Just twice there was a tell-tale huskiness, but otherwise his singing was splendid. He is a stylish effortless singer, fully in control of a sonorous voice that sounds – Russian style – as though it originates in the stomach, but luckily without any trace of Slavic wobble.
He took a short while finding form. Se vuol ballare from Figaro was slightly tentative, and the audience disconcerted him by applauding halfway through Madamina (Mozart’s Don Giovanni).
He seemed satisfied though, in his third aria – Osmin’s marvelous love song from Mozart’s Il seraglio – this his voice was not going to fail him, and he produced expressive, deeply felt singing.
Best of all was the long lament Ella giammai m’amo from Verdi’s Don Carlo, where his fine singing had first class accompaniment from the orchestra. The orchestra in fact played at their best most of the evening. They gave Shubert’s Fifth Symphony an accurate affectionate reading (why no exposition repeats in the the outer movements?) and closed with a really spirited account of the Ballet Music from Gounod’s Faust.