Introduction to Brilliance
If I have to summarise Saturday night in one word, it would be “unforgettable.” Mind you, this is coming from someone who sees gigs at every turn, in many different countries across continents…
At Congresium International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Ankara, by the end of the show, I was left in awe of this famous tenor and felt that seeing him live was the only way you can truly appreciate his talent. I am already looking forward to the next time, of course. Hopefully in Greece, along with our beloved soprano Feryal Türkoğlu again…
The night had a very important theme as well. It was in celebration of the Greece’s term presidency of the European Union and we shared their pride and happiness with the Ambassador of Greece to Turkey, Kyriakos Loukakis, the world renowned Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis and the Greek conductor Lukas Karytinos. At the press conference, it was intense to say the least; the interpreter lady burst into tears at one point and I couldn’t help myself think what she went through in her life. The whole thing certainly stirred empathy in me as well. Aykut Çınar, Ankara State Opera and Ballet Manager and Art Director (as well as a teacher at Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory, and a great tenor himself), the conductor Lukas Karytinos, the Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis and Mario Frangoulis himself expressed their happiness for sharing this historical moment for Greece with them. Lukas Karytinos praised the Ankara State Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the concertmaster, Tayfun Bozok, at every turn while they expressly said that they are honoured for sharing the stage with Feryal Türkoğlu. Of course, for those of you who have seen Feryal and the orchestra either before or at this brilliant performance of theirs, I don’t need to tell you that they deserve every bit of these praises! A proud moment indeed!
Thanks to the kind invitation of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet, I had the opportunity to ask the famous tenor a question that day. I said “You sing lots of different styles and seem to be comfortable with all those pop songs and arias and the crossovers. On a different note, Opera can be very contemporary and modern as well as classic and it can fit into pop culture and vice versa. And you’re in a position where you can reach out to people from different ages, with different backgrounds and different music tastes… So, my question is, do you find yourself on a such mission where you can bring the opera to masses and show people that opera can actually be an accessible form of art?”
His answer was as charming as the man himself.
“I think both as an artist and a human being, we all strive to better ourselves and to bring hope through our music and unity between nations. Of course, my role both as a musician and a human being, is to do that exact thing and bridge this gap and hope that we are all connected somehow.
So many unfortunate events happening every single day in this world, the only thing we have. Our only strength is our culture, our traditions and human relations. And I hope, through my music, whether it’s classical or crossover, through opera or through different ways of performing on stage we can give people the hope to dream to change this world. For a better future, a better world altogether. “
Back to the night…
Mario’s voice is so powerful, full of passion, so pleasing to the ear and *cough* he is an eye candy as well *cough* Doesn’t hurt really. He is very versatile and emotional in his delivery and has a very impressive stage presence. His highs were great, he sounded clear while retaining a nice balance and control but what impressed me the most was his velvety voice in lower notes, his particularly resonant midrange and distinct timbre. You might have guessed already that I don’t particularly enjoy a tenor or a soprano keeping at the high notes all the time; even though this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the skill. But this is something else entirely. Take the performances of Oğuz Sırmalı and Deniz Sayman, as Sırmalı, in their album ‘Gençlik Rüyası’ for instance. Another brilliant tenor whose mid-range we get to hear a lot throughout. I’d say I like variation in my music.
Now that I think about it, my question to Mario may actually hold for Oğuz as well – he seems to be doing the same thing in Turkey I think Mario is doing worldwide. I believe their debut album ‘Gençlik Rüyası’ has the potential to introduce the generations to come to a mix of operatic, popular and classical music but I digress…
Mario was particularly impressive in duets with Feryal and they both displayed astounding acting skills as well. Feryal was ravishing and as impressive as the fantastic tenor himself.
Mario has performed with lots of world-renowned sopranos and he was great with all of them, don’t get me wrong, but I have to say, the chemistry he had with Feryal, probably because they share an extremely similar culture and so each can read the other’s body language, mannerism, subtle cues on stage, was something else entirely.
The choice of pieces with its mixture of arias, Neapolitan songs and emotional duets stroke just the right chords. After the orchestra starting the night off with Gioconda’s Smile and thusly giving us the signs that we are in for an enchanted night with them and the great conductor Lukas Karytinos, Mario rocked the stage with Hijo De La Luna. What an entrance, man! I should say I then and there fell in love with the man’s brilliant control and mid-range.
It later transpired, with Canzone Arrabbiata no less, that fun was a part of the plan for the night as well. I love how he engaged the audience, making them clap and sing along! The moment that shattered me though, was the beautiful, beautiful rendition of Music of the Night. It was astounding! Period! I might have held my breath all the way through the performance. As if the lump in my throat was not enough, the enchantress, the magical soprano Feryal Türkoğlu entered the stage just after. When the duo was performing – wonderfully –Cole Porter’s So In Love, I am positive that every single art-loving woman in the audience was imagining herself in Feryal’s place. Me? Well, I never! 😛 They were, for the lack of a better term, spectacular. Their acting skills combined with their far too competent – for a mere mortal – delivery made me into a pile of goose bumps and ecstasy.
Lo and behold! The cruelty was not over, ladies and gentle-beings! Mario left the stage to Feryal and she thought it would be a good idea to make the whole audience to forget breathing for another brilliant rendition, this time of Les Filles De Cadix. When the piece ended, applause was on the Richter scale of course. I get goose bumps still, when I write about it. You are brilliant, Feryal Türkoğlu.
By the way, I have to say, whoever decided the night’s pieces and the flow, didn’t want Mario to rest. No, I’m serious… If you sing Luna Rossa and Granada before the break and nail both of them so well, you just don’t expect the audience to let you go backstage right away. You can’t blame them for eating into your recess with a looooooooong applause really!
Now, the second part of the night was as impressive as the first one, of course. But all hell broke loose at about halfway through it.
There is this man, Mikis Theodorakis, who has been very influential and been striving all his life in forming better relations between Turkey and Greece, and collaborated both musically and for this sentiment with his contemporary, Zülfü Livaneli of Turkey for years. You can imagine that he is well known and very much loved in Turkey. Now, imagine the duo singing a duet, Pheadra, by this man. Then, imagine closing the night with Strosse To Stromo Sou, the song Theodorakis wrote for Kazancakis’ Zorba, and then going and doing Zorba’s Dance with Feryal.
Yeah, standing ovation for many minutes and three encores – including All I Ask of You from the Phantom of the Opera which was breathe-taking! Even though it was more than two decades ago, he still is a brilliant Raoul!
A message of kindness and hope…
In general, Mario lit up the stage and the hearts of the audience with his smile and positive messages all throughout the show. From dedicating Cesare Andrea Bixio’s Mamma to all mothers to talking very positively about the both countries’ similarities and differences, their common past and desired, ideal future, he proved to be a very positive and kind soul.
The organisation was definitely flawless. ATO Congresium was a perfect choice of venue as it has everything, from beautiful design to impressive acoustics, huge capacity to a very friendly and helpful staff, that’s fitting with the brilliance of the night itself. Of course, the Ankara State Opera and Ballet deserve much praise for a beautiful night like this. I first-hand witnessed the dedication of State Opera and Ballet Manager and Art Director Aykut Çınar, Press, Publications and Public Relations Coordinator Zeynep Halvaşi and Press, Publications and Public Relations Specialist Emrah Betos the whole night through.
Result? A huge success!
All in all it was a fantastic evening, a very beautiful experience both musically and emotionally. I’m confident in my convictions that Mario deserves and is going to enjoy for many years to come, a stellar career.
This article is also available in Turkish, here.