THE LAST concert of the winter season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Durban City Hall, was very different from the normal symphony concert.

It was a programme of popular excerpts from the operas of Bizet, Verdi, Rossini and so forth. The purpose seems to have been to provide a suitable platform for the American mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann (pictured), who has achieved high distinction as an opera singer, and for two big local choirs, the African Chorus and the Thokozani Choral Society.

The concert was a resounding success. The performances were excellent and the good-sized audience gave enthusiastic applause throughout, and with justification.

Swann, who was born in Detroit, has been singing in public for about 10 years, since her student days at Oakland University in Michigan and at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. She has a warm, powerful voice and strong technical skills which she applies intelligently to the music. She showed her versatility and attractive stage personality in a range of arias, from the dramatic to the coquettish.

The visiting Israeli-American conductor Daniel Boico, who is well known here, contributed greatly to the pleasure of the evening. He has the ability to communicate his enthusiasm not only to the players and singers, but also to the audience, and in several of the works performed showed a well-developed sense of humour.

Swann sang in about half of the 12 items on the programme. The high points were, I think, Soft Awakes my Heart from Saint-Saens’s Samson and Delilah, one of the most beautiful of all arias, and the dramatic O don fatale from Verdi’s Don Carlos.

The choir singers, about 130 of them, were obviously well trained and disciplined (all credit to their choir masters, Mongi Mzobe and Mduduzi Mthiyane), and produced an impressive volume of sound. They were at their peak in Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco, a song for freedom that well illustrates the composer’s wonderful gift of melody.

At the end of the evening, Swann gave two encores, the Habanera from Bizet’s opera Carmen and a song from Claude-Michel Schonberg’s musical Les Misérables, and the audience went home more than happy. –