Despite Mezzo Soprano Karen Cargill's unexpected illness, the SCO, its chorus, and its other soloists soldiered on with highlights from Berlioz's short opera, Beatrice and Benedict.
Without Cargill as Beatrice, the SCO gave us one half of the narrative in the form of Benedict, sung expertly by Kenneth Tarver. Tarver's arias were comical and virtuosic, bringing out the dramatic flair of the part.
Particularly spectacular was the trio between Benedict, Don Pedro (Brindley Sherratt) and Claudio (Ashley Riches). Their voices blended superbly, complimented by Tarver's higher registers. When the chorus rose to its feet, its power was outstanding.
The improvisation number, led by Lionel Lhote singing under the guise of Somarone, amusingly captured the intoxication and joviality of a summer's night.
Considering Berlioz's work was based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the SCO's rendition displayed the contrast between comedy and tragedy with such skill and subtlety it was impossible to distinguish between the two.
In order to fill the second half of the concert left by Cargill's illness, the SCO spent the few hours before the concert rehearsing Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. As a perfect complement to Berlioz's delicate comedy, Beethoven was intense, romantic and powerful.
Especially at this opening concert, it was fortunate that we had the chance to hear the SCO by itself, doing what it does best. It was a pleasure to witness the masters of chamber music play Beethoven just how it should be played. In this case the show did go on, and all the better for it.