A sizeable crowd of music lovers has gathered on the lawn at the British International School Phuket (BIS) on Thursday evening (February 16) and people are sipping wine and eating finger-food.
A Starlight Soiree of opera aria, sung by visiting British soprano Julie-Anne Hunter, is raising funds for the foundation for its work of teaching English at two local government schools. A teacher is selling raffle tickets, and two young blond foundation volunteer girls are helping to serve food and drink.
Another English teacher anxiously looks up to the night sky for any sign of rain clouds. Fortunately none are there – instead there are early stars and a planet or two twinkling in the fading light.
There can be no more suitable place for this outdoor performance than the BIS amphitheatre, built in the manner of ancient Greece and Rome. As the audience files in, sitting on cushions on the rising tiers they have views of a grand piano on the stage below, the surrounding green sportfields, and the Victorian-esque facade of the school opposite, built in the stately design of an English public school.
Accompanied by pianist and teacher at BIS, Merja Makivirta, the familiar melodies of beloved arias of Puccini, Verdi and Mozart sung very movingly by Ms Hunter, rise into the dark sky and echo back lightly from the facing school building. There is not a breath of wind, and the crowd itself remains hushed.
When she sings Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro (oh my beloved father), this listener is moved close to tears, if not secretly right into them.
The soprano confesses that Ave Maria, the Schubert version, is a personal indulgence, as it may also be
for many listeners in the audience as well.
A soprano, not tenor, version of the Italian master’s Nessun Dorma (none shall sleep) rings out as the stirring finale of the first half of the recital. No one is sleeping.
Puccini all the way in Phuket? More, please.
– Norachai Thavisin