The song cycle takes the listener into one of music’s most personal spaces, like reading poems in the privacy of your own imagination. Although they do not usually tell stories operatically, Sydney Chamber Opera gave a series of song cycles a subtle narrative in a series of “cycles of song cycles”, as SCO Artistic Director, composer and pianist for these concerts Jack Symonds put it.
Singing beneath a mobile of suspended bars of light, soprano Jane Sheldon began with Wolken (Clouds), a gentle cycle of slowly shifting luminance by French compose Pascal Dusapin to poems by Goethe. Three songs by Mary Finsterer explored the nexus of human aspiration with the continent of Antarctica from the perspective of a child, a cartographer and a theologian.
In glittering vocal cascades in the first song, Sheldon’s voice captured an iridescent quality as it mixed with the resonance of the old church’s noble wooden beams. In Three Old Inscriptions by Hungarian Gyorgy Kurtag, Sheldon explored the quietest sighs and fragile vocal filaments against flitting piano sounds from Symonds.