Soprano Magdalene Minnaar and José Dias on piano prepare for their show, Nocturne, in the Beethoven room in Grahamstown on 8 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. Magdalene has won numerous awards and prizes including the Mimi Coertse Bursary Competition (winner), the Unisa Voice Competition (song prize) and a Kanna Award as part of the South African Sopranos (Best Classical Production). (Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe)


“Nockturne” is a programme for voice and piano exploring the endless possibilities of “night music”. The repertoire is enormous and Jose Dias and Magdalene Minnaar made a very personal choice for this evening’s music that explores the various variations of the night, evoking both tenderness, longing, desire, the wish to be with one’s lover, but also the fear and loneliness that creep into one’s chest. On explicit request the audience withheld their applause for the very last song in order to experience this journey under the moon in its fullest sense. There are times when the music is brought in the dark to intensify the experience. But tonight the lights are on and we can hear and see sorpano Madalene Minnaar singing through the night whilst Jose Dias plays the piano.

The journey starts with Clair de Lune reveling in the splendor of a palace and Apres un Reve composed by Gabriel Faure, a most beautiful piece on love and sadness, realizing that the image of love was a dream, but still there is joy in holding that dream.

Chopin’s Nocturne Op.32 No.2 inspired by Italian Belcanto and the work of John Field explores the more erotic nature of the night. “Ah non credea mirarti” from Bellini’s opera La Sonnambula wonders about the dangers of sleepwalking and the dangers of the night. In Carlyle Floyd’s Aint’ it a Pretty Night we hear Minnaar’s voice without the staccato and it sounds splendid as well. She takes the role of Suzanna, a girl from the country talking about her life to her younger brother. It continues with Debussy’s La Soiree dans Grenade. Death comes and Beau Soir links it to the night. Highlight of the evening comes in Bram du Toit’s Wegwys, especially written by the duo. Rachmoninoff’s These Summer Nights are understood as an erotic depiction of night action. The last piece preserved from Rachmoninoff’s oeuvre is a Lullaby originally composed by Tchaikovsky and is another personal highlight. Song to the Moon is Dvorak’s prayer to the moon, supplicated by a mermaid who ask the moon to take her feelings to her lover. The eerie feelings of night and the fear of loss are striking in Straus’ Die Nacht Op 10 No 3 and Caecilie Op 27 No 2.

Beautiful night music, some times a bit too much of the same and not always clear to understand.