Music in Monkstown – 9 – 11 September – Mairead Buicke and Anthony Byrne – Review by P McGovern
In the second of this year’s concerts in Monkstown Parish Church, Mairead Buicke, soprano and Anthony Byrne, piano presented a programme of operatic heroines, ranging from Puccini’s Mimi through Mozart’s Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Verdi’s Desdemona, Dvořák’s Rusalka and Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
I first heard Buicke at a concert in Eigse Carlow shortly after she graduated. Even then, the promise of the voice was evident. Next time I saw her, she was unrecognisable in a blackbobbed wig as Musetta in the English National Opera’s La Boheme. The intervening years of study and performance in works as varied as Peter Grimes, The Magic Flute, Maritana, Candide and Hansel & Gretel have left their mark and she is rightly acclaimed as one of our finest musical performers. Her Monkstown concert presented a well-chosen, considered programme, one which highlighted Buicke’s great range, both vocally and as an accomplished singer/actor. Rather than just individual arias, she presented some entire scenes, acting with a conviction that greatly enhanced the music.
Her ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Willow Song’ from Otello were deeply affecting. Rusalka’s ‘Song to the Moon’ tests the range of any soprano. Buicke’s interpretation was totally convincing as she soared effortlessly to the top notes of “Moon, do not fade away”. If there was a reservation anywhere in the evening, it concerned an occasional slight ‘hardening’ of the tone in the upper register, but the lower register was superb throughout.
The Tchaikovsky scene was, for me, the highlight of the evening. Tatyana daydreams of Onegin whom she has just met, hoping, in vain, that he shares her passion as she pledges eternal love. Buicke captured perfectly Tatyana’s initial innocence and naiveté, her shifts of tone colouring the shifts of intensifying emotion culminating in her determination to commit herself to Onegin forever. It was a magical evocation of the scene. She was sympathetically supported throughout by Anthony Byrne on piano. A fine concert.
The festival continued with Renaissance Instrumental and Vocal music by Kitchen Zink, at 3. 30 while Sunday evening’s concert featured the Navarra String Quartet playing Schubert, Haydn and SaintSaens.