Bryn Terfel

In one of the most memorable musical events in Durban for a long time, the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (pictured) showcased not only a magnificent voice but also a captivating personality.

With a widely varied programme of songs, ranging from Mozart to Rodgers and Hammerstein, he brought his city hall audience to a pitch of enthusiasm, culminating in a prolonged standing ovation at the end.

Terfel, 48 and the father of three, is one of the most celebrated opera singers in the world. The 24 songs in his Durban recital included only three operatic arias, from Mozart, Arrigo Boito and Kurt Weill, and these brought forth the full power and drama of his voice.

The rest of the programme was an ample demonstration of his extraordinary versatility.

He opened with Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific and continued with songs by John Ireland, Schubert, the well-known Traditional, Frederick Keel and some eloquent popular items such as Home on the Range. The Schubert group, To be Sung on the Water, The Trout, and Litany, gave special evidence of the singer’s artistry.

He was accompanied by the distinguished South African pianist Nina Schumann, who provided highly efficient and discreet support throughout.

Terfel is a big burly man and his voice is big, powerful, accurate and wonderfully controlled, be it in a thrilling crescendo or a whispered pianissimo. His diction is excellent; you can hear the words. His stage presence is remarkable.

He had the audience on their feet when singing Loch Lomond. He chatted informally about his boyhood in Wales as the son of a farmer who kept cows and sheep. He came down steps to sing to the women in the audience and kiss a hand gallantly.

And he found time to mention Mrs Wendy Cussons of Durban, who died recently and who some years ago gave R1 million, anonymously, to the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for the purchase of the Steinway grand piano on the city hall stage. Her passing has gone unacknowledged, as far as I know. It is ironic that it has taken an international celebrity from Wales to pay tribute to her. –