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WAO Playlist Series XV Curated by Brigitte Heuser

This week's playlist is curated by Standing Room Only's Brigitte Heuser. Read about and stream Brigitte's playlist which includes arias from Fidelio, Rigoletto and Romeo and Juliet. 

Heil sei dem tag from Fidelio by Beethoven
I had the thrill to sing as part of the chorus for WAO and WASO’s performances of Fidelio in the Perth Festival earlier this year -  I say thrill because singing in a large chorus is thrilling, and it does wonders for the soul. It was my first performance after my second daughter was born in December and my last before lockdown. The message in the opera of freedom resonates even more as our lives change throughout this evolving pandemic. This finale is one of the most triumphant endings to an opera, ever.

Songs of a Wayfarer from Wenn mein schatz Hochzeit macht by Mahler
My introduction to classical music was through symphonic music as my Father was a violist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. I watched so many rehearsals and even toured with him, sitting side of stage during performances. Mahler is one of my favourite symphonic composers. Singing the song cycle Songs of a wayfarer gets me pretty close to being part of his symphonic works as he took the themes for 1st symphony directly from the songs.

Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev 
Growing up, my parents' CD collection was mostly classical except for my Dad’s collection of records from his time as a Disco DJ in Germany. I couldn’t figure the records when I was very young nut one of my favourite CD's was Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. I had seen the Royal NZ Ballet perform it in rehearsal and performance as my Dad was in the Pit. This dance was a favourite to act extremely dramatic and pace around to. We are lucky to have a world-class ballet company here in Perth, the WA Ballet. Since moving here I have seen a few of their shows, a highlight for me was Dracula.

Vesna by Dakhabrakha 
As an opera singer one doesn't only learn and take inspiration from other opera singers but from so many performers and art forms. I performed twice as part of the International arts festival Barents Spektakel in northern Norway, I met so many incredible artists and seeing Dakhabrakha live was one of the most memorable live music events I have been to. They blend punk rock with Ukrainian folk music and the way the singers use their voices was astonishing. Their technique is drawn from 'white singing' common in Eastern European folk music.

O sole mio by Sol3 Mio
These guys are friends of mine from New Zealand, Pene and I also studied together for our Masters at the Wales International Academy of Voice. With their group Sol3 Mio, they have brought opera to so many Kiwis. Their first album out-sold Lorde when it was released. They have the most magnificent operatic voices with an unpretentious stage presence and humour.

Naqui all’affanno e al pianto from La Cenerentola by Rossini
This is a showstopper piece for a mezzo-soprano. It’s a piece that I can never stop working on, the runs can always be better or different. I love having fun with the character and letting Cinderella have her moment in the spotlight.  I recently recorded a video version of it whilst cleaning a fireplace. Side note - cleaning jobs paid my way through university.

Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde by Wagner
I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Bayreuth in 2012 My host was the fantastic New Zealand Bass Martin Snell who was singing for the season there. I saw Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser. I wouldn’t call myself a Wagner über fan but experiencing his operas in the place he designed for them to be staged in was otherworldly. Hearing soprano Iréne Theorin in Bayreuth deliver the Liebestod at the end of this epic role was mind-blowing. The stamina that opera takes is immense, if other composers write middle distance races then Wagner writes ultra marathons. I've chosen a recording of Jessye Norman singing here as she is an artist whom I've long admired. Sadly, she passed away last year.

Teresa Berganza - Un paño moruno by de Falla
As a student, Berganza’s “A portrait” album was one of my favourites to hear the range of the mezzo-soprano voice. The Manuel de Falla set is an old favourite of mine and I have performed them often including in London at St Martin's in the Fields, Trafalgar Square.

Joyce Di Donato - Scherza Infida from Ariodante by Handel
My favourite voices are voices that move me; a voice with expression, colour and uniqueness. You hear it in this hauntingly beautiful but scornful Handel aria. Joyce di Donato is incomparable in her output. She is also generous to other singers, giving many masterclasses and sharing advice through video blogs (long before Covid19 forced us online). 

Bella Figlia, from Rigoletto by Verdi
One of my favourite ensembles as a performer and audience member. It's so satisfying in performance when it comes together perfectly with your colleagues/

Una furtiva Lagrima from L’esilir d’amore by Donizetti 
This is my favourite tenor Aria. It often pops into my head with my baby Heidi - when she frets a little she literally cries one furtive tear… so it is possible!

Valse d’Amelie, Yann Tierson
I love European cinema and Amelie was so perfect because of its fabulous soundtrack. I walked the aisle/ garden path at my wedding to our friends' Klezmer band playing this song. Of course, a special memory especially as I was on my father's arm who has since passed away - he is the reason I sing today.