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Teddy Tahu Rhodes (bass-baritone) - The Voice
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen, Votre toast (Toreador's Song)
Les Pecheurs de Perles, Au fond du temple saint (with David Hobson, tenor)
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

I Puritani, Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust, Avant de quitter ces lieux
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Pikovaya Dama, (The Queen of Spades) Ya vas lyublyu (Yeletsky's Aria)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Edgar, Questo amor
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tannhauser, O du, mein holder Abendstern (Song of the Evening Star)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) St Matthew Passion Mache dich, mein Herze, rein (Purify yourself, my heart); Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder (Give me back my Jesus)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Messiah, Why do the nations?
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Shallow Brown from Sea Chanty Settings No. 3
Traditional. OWaly,Waly, (with Jane Sheldon, soprano)
Fannie Rose HOWIE (1868-1916) Hine e Hine
Paraire TOMOANA (c.1875-1946) Pokarekare Ana (with Alison Morgan, soprano)
Chorus Rhodes Cantillation
Orchestra of the Antipodes, Sinfonia Australis/Anthony Walker and Thomas Woods.
Recorded in the Eugene Goossens Hall of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo Centre, March, April, September, October 2003
ABC CLASSICS 476 227-2 [69.10]
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This is Rhodes’ second solo album for the ABC label. His previous release was of Mozart arias and orchestral pieces. He has also featured on recordings of Handel’s Messiah and Fauré’s Requiem. Distributed by Universal Classics I suppose hype had to come into the title of this, his second solo offering, with its high quotient of romantic opera arias. Whether the title will do for Teddy Rhodes what it has helped do for Russell Watson remains to be seen. What is true is that unlike Watson, Rhodes has had academic training in music and singing and now works with an opera company singing solo roles.

Not all has been straightforward in Rhodes’ singing career. Like many Antipodean singers he made his way to the U.K. after study at New Zealand’s Christchurch University. After only a year’s study at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music he returned home. At age 23 he won the Mobil Song Quest, New Zealand’s major operatic singing contest. Despite this success Rhodes turned his back on professional singing to become an accountant. At age 32 he was persuaded to audition for Opera Australia with whom he debuted in 1998.

The title of the album implies vocal quality, but is not as frank as the booklet notes as to Rhodes’ lack of operatic and stage experience. Listening through the very varied repertoire on this disc, the lack of training years and stage experience in the roles assayed is plainly evident. Perhaps the first question to raise is his vocal fach as no statement is made as to this. It is clear that he is not a high baritone and Verdi is significantly absent. Whilst Rhodes may have the high notes within the Toreador’s Song (tr. 1) and Valentine’s Avant de quitter from Faust (tr. 3) he has to reach for them rather than rising to them naturally. He sings the Bizet with brio but his voice does not move easily into the higher tessitura of this and the other arias. At these points tonal cover and colour thins. Rhodes’ voice has an inherent throatiness. As the pitch rises he squeezes the voice and this becomes more pronounced and intrusive. The last of the operatic tracks is the Temple Duet from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers (tr. 7). Here the tessitura is not so high and Rhodes’ full tone, together with some elegant phrasing, can be better appreciated. With the heady tenor of David Hobson taking the higher line this is an enjoyable rendition of the ever-popular number

The Oratorio tracks (8-10) show Rhodes’ instrument to better effect and also his capacity for vocal expression. I expect his more extensive experience in this field contributes to this. Rhodes’ true fach is probably in the lower baritone or bass baritone range. When Opera Australia cast him as Dandini in Rossini’s La Cenerentola for his debut they recognised this. This album fails to do so. Nor does it recognise Rhodes’ lack of experience of styles of operatic singing. I would have thought a Rossini aria would have been far more suitable than the Bellini (tr. 2) where the singer has little sense of the composer’s cantilena. To compensate for these limitations the final four tracks (11-14), of lighter music will be new to most people and are well sung. These are pieces that do not require pressure to be put on the voice and Rhodes is more relaxed. This shows in the evenness of his singing and phrasing in these pieces.

The recording is excellently balanced in a clear open acoustic. All the words are given with English translation. With further vocal and operatic study when younger, Rhodes might well have joined that distinguished band of Antipodean bass and baritone singers who have graced the world’s operatic stages including the Green Hill. As matters stand, popular albums, recitals and appearances with Opera Australia might be his limit. That these might pay more than accountancy will depend on how the Australian and New Zealand public buy into their own. For those not hyper-critical of singing quality, the diverse repertoire on this disc and the fine quality of the recording will provide an enjoyable hour or so of listening.

Robert J. Farr

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