On Tuesday, October 19, Menaka Sahabandu de Fonseka gave a solo song recital, the proceeds of which will go to the “Samata Sarana” charity providing scholarships to under privileged girls to follow computer courses.
The recital was organized by the Zonta Club 1 of Colombo.
The first part of the programme was devoted to classical arias, both operatic and non-operatic accompanied by Soundarie David Rodrigo on the piano.
The arias featured were the popular “Had I Jubal’s Lyre” from Handel’s oratorio “Joshua” which is in three acts.
This was followed by the Romantic art song “Beau Soir” by Debussy. "Beau Soir" (French for "Beautiful Evening") was written by Claude Debussy and is set to a poem by Paul Bourget. Debussy was twenty or twenty one when he wrote this song (ca.1883), and his music was marked by the aesthetics of the period.
Then followed Gabrielle Faure ‘Les Roses D’Ispahan’. Fauré is regarded as one of the masters of the French art song, or mélodie. The text is by Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894).
Menaka showed her versatility by singing arias from opera. The first from Rossini’s Barber of Seville was the aria Una Voce Poco Fa.
The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution (Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione) is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775).
The song that followed by Delibes was not from an opera, namely “Les Filles de Cadix”. This energetic and lighthearted song was composed during 1885 and 1886, to words by Alfred de Musset (1810 - 1857). Opening in an Allegretto con moto tempo, the accompaniment in D minor is a kind of Spanish trumpet-call dance melody, harmonized in thirds against a steady, pedal-point, guitar-like staccato bass played with subdued intensity at a piano dynamic. The accompaniment changes to a steady guitar strum as the voice enters the first ascent.
An aria “Deh Vieni Non Tardar” (“O come, don’t delay”) from Mozart’s popular opera “Marriage of Figaro”, where Susanna sings a love song to an unnamed lover to punish the spying Figaro followed. (The Marriage of Figaro, or the Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (1784).
It was a pity that the arias from the operas were not preceded by a short introduction so that the audience could better appreciate the context in which these are sung in the opera.
As a brief reprieve from song, Sureka Amerasinghe, on the flute, played Gaubert’s nocturne and Allegro Scherzando. The nocturne settles into the piano with gauzy impressionistic harmonies. The flute arrives with a gentle melody that initially seems like foursquare salon material, but within a few measures it wanders off chromatically and takes on the sensuous character associated with flute music by the slightly older Ravel and Debussy.
The nocturne, monothematic and rhapsodic, ends with a little flute flourish and is succeeded by the longer Allegro Scherzando section. Here the style reverts to nineteenth century Romanticism, with its playful will-o'-the-wisp opening melody. Contrasting material arrives in the more languorous middle section, but this is interrupted before it can develop, by the main scherzo tune.
The broader theme makes one more grand, if again curtailed appearance before the chirping main theme carries the piece through its final bars.
The first part of the concert ended with the popular waltz song “Voice of Spring” by Johan Strauss II. "Frühlingsstimmen" ("Voices of Spring") op. 410 is a waltz by Johann Strauss II that was written in 1882. The work was intended as a waltz with a solo voice accompaniment
After the intermission, Menaka with Soundarie on piano,, Sureka on flute and Gayanath Dahanayake on tabla entertained us to two Sinhala Songs, Amaradeva’s “Nim Him Sewwa” and the ever popular Sunil Santha’s “Olu Pipila”.
The accompaniment was an original one improvised by the instrumentalists.
There followed two George Gershwin songs namely "The Man I Love", a popular standard, with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira (originally part of the 1927 score for the Gershwin anti-war satire Strike Up the Band); and “By Strauss”, a 1936 song composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Performed by the Gershwins at private parties, It also became a favourite encore of that great Dutch soprano Elly Ameling b. 8 February 1933.
Next on the programme was “I dreamed a dream” from Les Misérables, colloquially known as Les Mis, one of the most famous and most performed musicals worldwide. Based on the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, it follows the struggles of a cast of characters as they seek redemption and revolution in nineteenth century France. French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg composed the Tony Award-winning score in 1980, with a libretto by Alain Boublil.
The concert ended with ‘Bésame Mucho", a Spanish language song written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez, Cole Albert Porter (1891 – 1964) an American composer and songwriter’s popular, “I got you under my skin” and finally "Fly Me to the Moon" a popular standard song written by Bart Howard in 1954.
It was titled originally "In Other Words," and was introduced by Felicia Sanders in cabarets. The latter three jazz numbers were accompanied by Soundarie with her usual zest and total immersion when she plays jazz and with additional flute obbligatos by Surekha, both adding rhythm and expression to the songs.