Sweden Dala Floda Opera Festival: 30 soloists, Ola Ottosson (piano), Floda Church 8.8.2019. (GF)
Ever since Dala Floda Opera Festival started in 2011 there have been parallel activities for young people with ‘special talents’, who have taken part in opera workshops resulting in a performance towards the end of the festival week. This a very deserving activity which has been enriching for the audience, giving them self-confidence and a sense of acceptance as full members of society. Standing before an audience and singing, albeit with some support from their mentors, is an enormous step forward and having followed some of them for several years, I have seen them grow and witnessed their insight into the music they perform and their joy when their achievements are met with applause. It has become a natural part of the annual concert in Floda Church, where several choir singers are also given an opportunity to be a soloist alongside established, professional singers. Their technique and artistic capacity vary, of course, and it would be unfair to write an in-depth critical review. Suffice it to say that 30 soloists performed in Floda Church this evening and everyone put his or her soul into the singing. It was truly admirable and also makes Dala Floda Opera Festival stand out as a different sort of event: everyone is welcome to perform on his/her own level. The scope is wide in many respects, as founder and artistic leader Anna Eklund Tarantino said in her opening speech. The youngest soloist was 13, the oldest 77, on the one hand there was Mathias Zachariassen, who sang eight seasons at Vienna State Opera, and on the other there were amateurs.
Zachariassen is also a composer and sang his own setting of Nobel Prize Winner Nelly Sachs, ‘Wer weiss, wo die Sterne stehn’ and, by way of contrast, Tassilo’s song from Gräfin Mariza with a perfect Viennese lilt. Erik Johansson, a strong Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro earlier this week, changed hats and sang Figaro’s ‘Se vuol ballare’ – which was cut in the production – very well, though too fast for my taste, thus missing the revolutionary weight it should convey. Anders Falbe, who was so dynamic and dramatic as Zeta and Count Almaviva, chose a very beautiful setting of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ by Gustaf Nordqvist, and sang it with lyrical restraint, and Fabian Düberg, being from the south of Sweden, delivered ‘Saa tag mit hjerte’ by Hugo Alfvén in perfect Danish and inward lyricism, and later surprised us with ‘Till havs’, Jussi Björling’s showpiece, sung with élan. Another tenor, bus-driver Eric Westanskog, turned out to be a fully-fledged lyrical Francophone in the dream aria from Massenet’s Manon. But after the interval he switched gears and delivered Lohengrin’s ‘Mein lieber Schwan’ with true Wagnerian brilliance. Very impressive! Nonetheless, the real showstoppers were Maria Kjelsson’s reading of Violetta’s first act aria from La traviata with dramatic intensity and secure top notes, and William Davis Lind, whose lyrical tenor tackled Canio’s ‘Vesti la giubba’ from Pagliacci, with an unexpected volcano of strength and intensity, with acting to match. Both were met with ovations from the audience and Anna Eklund Tarantino, who was to round off the three-hour-long concert after William’s emotional eruption was reluctant to sing at all, but her soft rendering of Gershwin’s beautiful lullaby ‘Summertime’ was the ideal finale.