Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
April 9, 2018

Beethoven’s great concert aria Ah! perfidois a tall order for the most accomplished of singers. Its shifting moods require a soprano of imagination, who must move believably between fury, tenacity and despair while also retaining a sense of the aria’s overall arc.

Soprano Nicole Car, in her debut appearance with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, seems to understand this challenge, and met it with spirit. Usually sung by more dramatic sopranos (to give you an idea, Nilsson and Varnay both recorded it), Car’s lighter timbre was tested by some of Beethoven’s difficult writing, with the closing chromatic runs not as glitteringly precise as they could be. Her Italian could also be punchier, particularly in the imperious opening recitative.

Nicole Car and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. All photos © Nic Walker

Yet Car impressed with her obvious dramatic commitment, bringing a lovely pathos to the cantilena where her peachy tone was at its most attractive. Paying particular attention to the phrase ‘Risparmiate quel cor, ferrite il mio’ (‘Spare that heart, strike at mine’), Car shows us an aggrieved woman still very much in love – her rendition...