Julia Lezhneva with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Oliver Gooch
Hobart Baroque Festival, 30 March 2014
I’m betting 95% of the audience at this concert had never heard of Julia Lezhneva before her Australian visit. Include this reviewer in that category! After her stunning performance of baroque showstoppers by Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart and Broschi, she has another 1,100 plus fans.
Julia Lezhneva is a 24 year-old Russian soprano (as she corrected me, when I referred to her as a coloratura soprano in line with Festival advertising) who has attracted the notice of Dame Kiri te Kanawa and other luminaries. Wearing a simple flowing brilliant red gown, Lezhneva served notice that she possesses an instrument of extraordinary beauty, flexibility and colour with her first piece –Agitata Da Due Venti, an example of Vivaldi’s vocal fireworks and which demands perfect breath control, agility, and technical excellence. Lezhneva did not disappoint. It was more of the same throughout the evening, culminating in Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate (although I wondered why she opted out of the glorious top note at the end, choosing the octave below instead).
The highlight of the evening for me was her second Vivaldi selection Zeffiretti from Ercole, Sur Turmodonte. Lezhneva was supported by wonderfully sensitive flute playing (Douglas Mackie strategically positioned in the upper balcony and ‘dialoguing’ with Lezhnova throughout) and violin obligato from the concertmaster and principal second violin. Lezhneva’s ability to ‘float’ a single pianissimo note or phrase had me holding my breath for fear of breaking the spell she was casting. After two Handel arias in the first half, the audience was on their feet with wild applause. In the second half, she sang the Mozart Exsultate Jubilate, followed by two encores in response to rapturous applause. Throughout she was supported by a scaled down Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Oliver Gooch. The orchestra played three pieces by Vivaldi, Handel, and Haydn during the evening.
Lezhneva is definitely a singer to keep on your radar – buy her CD at your local music outlet and enjoy her superb voice. Her clarity, purity of tone, perfect articulation, effortless leaps and runs, and ability to sing mezzo as well as soprano pieces mark her as a young and fast rising star who I hope will visit Australia again in the near future. When she does, don’t miss hearing her!
Additional Note: This is the 2nd Hobart Baroque Festival. Make a note to buy tickets for next year when they come available around September 2014. Based on sold-out performances this year, you won’t want to start thinking about it near the event. The Festival showcases top-flight performers, and is extremely well run. I can’t wait for 2015 in Hobart!