★★★★★ Intimate recital by Siobhan Stagg and Eidit Golder a real treat.

Melbourne Recital Centre
July 23, 2015

Siobhan Stagg: super star. Seriously spectacular. So many alliterations come to mind when listening this young Melbourne soprano. Stagg performed a selection of early 20th-century German repertoire to the near-capacity audience at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, last night, and many will agree that this intimate, under-advertised recital was a treat.

Having only just landed in Melbourne (Stagg regularly sings with the Berlin Deutsche Oper and several other opera houses around Europe), the soprano bore no visible signs of jet lag or fatigue. Instead, she stepped on stage resplendent in a glorious magenta gown, and shortly dazzled with her fresh and bright voice, from the beginning of the recital right through to the end.

Stagg, accompanied by pianist Eidit Golder, opened the program with Korngold’s exquisite Lieder des Abschieds. Although often performed by mezzo-soprano or baritone, Stagg handled the lower-lying passages well, revealing a luscious and full-bodied tone. However, it was not until the following Glück das mir verlieb (Marietta’s Lied) from the opera Die Tote Stadt that we really experienced the power, beauty and bloom of Stagg’s soprano. This, along with the violin concerto, is probably the best known of Korngold’s compositions, with its sweeping accompaniment and lyrical vocal line. Here, Golder’s playing was particularly sensitive, providing support during the many long and sustained high vocal passages. Stagg demonstrated her capacity for dramatic expression, which, combined with the sheer beauty of the music, had many audience members reaching for their tissues (myself included).

Highlights from the following set of Strauss songs included Zueignung and Morgen. Performed and recorded by many famous lyric sopranos of the 20th and 21st century, Stagg and Golder left no room for comparisons, offering a vital and optimistic reading of the score, and favouring clear delivery of text over schmaltz. I overheard one audience member whispering about the likeness of Stagg’s singing to that of Gundula Janowitz, but to my ear she and Golder created something truly original.

To close the program, Stagg pulled out all stops with a theatrical and sensational rendition of Strauss’s fiendishly difficult Grossmächtige Prinzessin (Zerbinetta’s Aria) from Ariadne auf Naxos. Her coloratura is something to behold, and left no one in doubt of why this young Melburnian is so in-demand here and in Europe.

Of course, what is a vocal recital without a fitting encore (and this was, after all, part of the MRC ‘Local Heroes’ series, paying tribute to Dame Nellie Melba)? Stagg’s choice of Henry Bishop’s simple but sweet Home Sweet Home, a favourite of both Melba and Joan Sutherland, seemed the perfect way to round out the hour, bringing the audience to its feet. There can be no doubt, Siobhan Stagg really is something special.

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