Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Ruling Passion

Singing about love and passion isn't very spectacular. It requires class and finesse. Ordinary musicians can hide behind spectacular music to deliver, but Asitha Tennekoon and Ramya De Livera are no ordinary musicians and chose the harder option - to sing about love. This requires heart, soul, subtlety, control and passion.

I'm no music critic, but I felt that I must write about this program of music which is a rare and welcome experience for us in Sri Lanka.

You come to expect nothing but the best from musicians of the caliber of Asitha and Ramya De Livera. Asitha has been one of the finest tenors Sri Lanks has ever produced and is probably "the" finest tenor of our times in this our land. His performance last night was one of sheer purity and brilliance.

The programme began with Schumanns Widmung, a lengthy piano introduction gave way to Asitha's voice. He sailed through his renditions of all the pieces he sang with minimal effort but with maximum effect. His spectacular control and the delivery of subtle dynamics in a manner that conveyed the required expression were key factors that enabled him to carry the program through. The use of dramatisation and facial expression was subtle and added quality and meaning to his renditions.

The first half consisted of arias from operas and other songs composed by classical composers. The two standout pieces were "Il Mio Tesoro Intanto" from Mozart's infamous Don Giovanni and "Una Furtiva Lagrima" by Gaetano Donizetti. The latter work in particular was a stunning piece and Asitha made it sink deep into the soul.

The variety on display even within the first half was epitomized by the fervent yet hillarious rendition of "When I think upon the Maidens".

Ramya De Livera was at her usual brilliant best at the piano and like Asitha delivered the passion required to drive the program with subtle changes in style, expression and feeling. The piano at the Russian Center isn't the best in town but she made it sound as good any instrument you could get your hands on.

Dominic Johnpillai on violin gave a solo performance which was of high caliber, signalling that he is a serious emerging talent and is worth following.

The second half gave way to music of a lighter vain. The deep full sound of Peshali Yapa sang "Bill" from the well known musical Showboat. It was indeed a wonderful effort where she not only made the audience feel the love, laughter and the pain. She continued in this vain with some additional dramatisation in "Someone is sending me flowers". She was soon joined by Asitha in a duet. They sang well together. Their voices together aren't the most dynamic and wonderful pairings you would find, but they still click and can make their performance work.

"A Bit of Earth" by Lucy Simon was sung beautifully by Asitha and was the showpiece of the second half. Asitha and Peshali were also brilliant on the song "Anything you can do". They complimented each other fabulously, giving a comic but vocally brilliant performance.

The instrumental ensemble was also very good and added to the class of the performance. Dominic Johnpillai tended to play a little too loud at times, drowning out the others as well as the vocals on occasion, but Johann Peiris and Prajapa De Silva were very precise and conscious of their dynamic levels.

This program didn't quite let Asitha put his full vocal range and power on display. It was more an exhibition of beautiful singing filled with passion.

It was a night to remember and we need to thank Asitha, Ramya, Peshali and others for making it so memorable. I hope Asitha continues to grow in stature as a musician and some day comes back to Sri Lanka to thrill audiences with his ever present voice.

If you missed it yesterday try and make it over tonight to the Russian Center and experience the Ruling Passion.