VIAF 2015

A most enchanted evening with Marvic Monreal and Christine Zerafa!

What an utterly beautiful and warm voice, so expressive and evocative! This, coupled with most intelligent singing, made of Wednesday evening a most enchanted and enchanting one.

Marvic Monreal is an up-and-coming mezzo soprano studying at the Royal Academy in London. I had not heard her for a few years, in fact, I had not heard her since she had taken part in one of VIAF‘s Debutants’ Concert a good number of years back. Even then, she already possessed what is fact becoming a very valid and wonderful mezzo voice, one that is full of potential and which could take her places. Hearing her sing on Wednesday one would have been excused for thinking that this is a voice that has seen years and years of study and experience. Knowing that she is only in her first year at the Academy is beyond belief, but believe it one has to for that’s the case. Supported by the most sensitive and intelligent accompaniment of Christine Zerafa, an enthusiastic audience did not wish for the concert to come to an end.

Starting her recital with three haunting Bellini songs, the mood was set: a rich palette, exciting to the core, legato and full of passion created a level of excitement and a hunger for yet more. And Marvic and Christine complied: they gave us more and more. If any proof were needed it came in Handel’s much-used (and sometime abused) Ombra mai fu. If an aria which has been sung, played, transcribed a million times over sounds fresh, exciting and new, then, the performer will have passed the test of time. The interpretation of this aria was thrilling and controlled – if that oxymoronic combination can be achieved!

Next came three supreme Lieder  in the form of Strauss’ Allerseelen, Schumann’s Die Lotosblume, and Brahms’ Wie melodien zieht es mir. Lieder is a difficult genre for, while the right dose of emotional intensity needs to be given, one should also keep away from the histrionics that opera necessitates. Marvic tackled these three beautiful gems impeccably: assured, confident, articulated and with perfect phrasing, these were three songs that were an utter joy to listen to. At this point one must also emphasize Christine Zerafa’s superb accompaniment. Always supporting, coming to the fore where necessary but never intrusive, this was one good lesson to any aspiring accompanist!

Next came three arias from three entirely different operas, namely, Mozart’s Voi che sapete (Le Nozze di Figaro), Bizet’s Habanera (Carmen), and Purcell’s When I am laid in earth (Dido and Aeneas).  If there were possibly one weak point in the evening’s programme, I felt it was in the Mozart aria.  By this I mean that Marvic could have kept her voice that shade lighter – her wonderful mezzo was too rich for Voi che sapete. On the other hand, it was magnificently suitable for the sultry, sensuous and passionate Habanera and later even more so for the seductive Seguidilla which piece, to my mind, was accomplished with supreme artistry. Dido’s lament When I am laid in earth was wonderfully accomplished and this is one of the characteristics that emerged throughout the evening, namely, the ability to shift and change style and mood with consummate ease. This is no mean feat when one considers the relative inexperience of the singer!

Three Fauré songs came after the three operatic arias. These were Les Berceaux, Au bord l’eau, and Chanson d’amour. Again, these French lieder were tackled with refinement and elegance, with scrupulous attention to details of phrasing that was impressive and very intelligent. Two Quilter songs, one a setting of Shakespeare’s song from Measure for Measure – Take, oh take those lips away, and Now sleeps the crimson petal from Tennyson’s The Princess. Simply lovely!

There is surely nothing more satisfying for teachers and educators to see talent flowering and bearing fruit. This was one such experience. Marvic, Christine and, just three days earlier, Philip Attard, are solid proof that talent, when coupled with hard work and commitment, is unbeatable!

This was one very beautiful performance and we hope to be regaled with Marvic’s and Christine’s contribution sooner rather than later! Thank you!!