“[...] backed by the stately trilling of an Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted with mathematical precision by Erin Helyard and featuring a hybrid harpsichord/organ that Handel would have thoroughly approved of, and that Jennens would have dismissed as yet another maggot of an idea.”
Pinchgut artistic director Erin Helyard can be relied upon to do something unusual or unexpected and he’s exceeded expectations with this triple bill. It introduces audiences for the first time to the live experience of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Anacréon followed by the intermezzo Erighetta e Don Chilone by Leonardo Vinci and, in the second half of the program, by Rameau’s Pigmalion. […] The over-arching themes of life and art and imitations of both are deliciously played out, with the Orchestra of the Antipodes led by Erin Helyard out front and sounding both unified and energetic, and when joined by the chorus, often rapturously magnificent. Such a treat!
Pinchgut Opera’s winter production often presents events which, history tells us, shaped the development of music, but in which, without live performance, it can be difficult today to see what the fuss was about. […] The unforced naturalness of sound and line from the Orchestra of the Antipodes and from the chorus under conductor Erin Helyard was a particular pleasure.
The band, led by Erin Helyard from the harpsichord, is excellent and the balance almost uniformly perfect. Pinchgut Opera’s triple bill is a complex interweaving of plots and realities, taking the hothouse of musical and intellectual thought of mid-18th-century Paris and launching it into the 21st century.
My want list this year features, not by design, duos and solos. […] The piano four hands album by Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard is a terrific treat for keyboard fanciers. We get to hear three different 19th Century Erard pianos, in repertoire from each of their periods. Whether in the ebullience of music by Meyerbeer and Moscheles, or in the solemn reverie of Alkan, this is a CD that is striking not only in its music making but also in the fact that it even exists.
The performances of all three works are at the highest level. […] Examples of McCallum and Helyard’s fine orchestral playing in the Meyerbeer abound. […] the performance behaves like a succession of coiled springs, releasing momentum with complete conviction. A masterclass in dramatic pacing. […] Here (as elsewhere) Helyard’s experience as an opera conductor and continuo player shines through. Helyard and McCullum make such fine duo partners. Both have the digital mastery and imagination to coax a vast range of colours and characters from the keyboard. All their choices of characterisation seem in sympathy with the musical writing, and they never lose that invisible thread that projects from the concert platform to the auditorium. That’s a remarkable feat for a recording. By rights this CD should be in for several awards. It should certainly be on the shelves of every serious performing institution, and in the hands of all who value vital and creative piano playing of the highest quality, not to mention listeners who love to explore rare repertoire. A remarkable achievement.
There are five stars on the present
CD: the two pianists, and the three
19th-century Érard pianos they play
The music is heard to best advantage on this performance by one of our premier Alkan specialists, Stephanie McCallum, who is joined by Erin Helyard to offer incisive readings that make the most of Alkan’s imaginative harmonic and rhythmic choices, and do so with consistent vigor and wit. […] Strongly recommended.
The Overture to Le prophète, a 12-minute piece Charles- Valentin Alkan transcribed in 1850 from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera, most readily showcases McCallum and Helyard’s technical precision and skill.
Erin Helyard directed an Adelaide Symphony Orchestra completely at home in Handel’s idiom, buoyant of rhythm and marked by engaging textures. He was also part of a musical caprice, playing the chamber organ as it rose through the candlelit stage at the start of the second act.
Photography Tony Lewis
This is a transformative production on several levels. In Saul, director Barrie Kosky has taken the musically rich but dramatically stiff conventions of the Handelian oratorio that made a work like Messiah such a redoubtable pillar of English social rectitude, and turned it into vivid theatre of riotous imagination, psychological depth, and challenging edginess. Yet as always with Kosky’s work, there is a special place for the music’s subversive power which conductor Erin Helyard draws out with discerning and beguiling finesse. […] Helyard paces the music to draw out this duality, and not only created balanced nuance from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra but, with impressive versatility, dispatched organ concertos from pit and stage just because Handel thought they would liven things up (they did).
Add to this the sensitively detailed playing of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under Erin Helyard and the result is a masterpiece of operatic staging.
The superb Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was expertly led by the talented and expressive Erin Helyard, an impressive harpsichordist soloist and impresario in his own right; he is the co-founder of both the celebrated Pinchgut Opera and the Orchestra of the Antipodes.
A winning ensemble of visiting international stars and Australian musicians and singers under the baton of Dr Erin Helyard created a luscious period sound that included the pleasures of listening to baroque instruments including a small organ which emerged on stage at the beginning of the second half with Helyard playing.
Saul offers ample opportunity for conductor Erin Helyard and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to display their considerable skill.
Normally in charge of a period band, Erin Helyard here leads the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and draws out a performance full of crisp energy, shapely phrasing and imaginative touches, especially in the continuo department. The splendid Josep Maria Marti Duran, who impressed mightily in Brisbane last year, is a superb theorbo and lutenist, Anthony Abouhamad plays a mean chamber organ continuo, while Helyard himself is captivating on harpsichord, switching to chamber organ to emerge Wurlitzer-like from under the stage in the second half to deliver a bubbly solo in full frock, flowing raven hair and lippy.
And while the eye is captivated by Katrin Lea Tag’s astonishing set design – which essentially amounts to not much more than the abovementioned long table (which turns out to be two) and a carpet of black/grey artificial dirt spread over the entire stage – and her ravishing costumes, which look as if they have sprung from a series of scenes from a Hogarth flipbook as they might have been coloured in by, say, Watteau, the ear revels in the realisation of the score in the hands of baroque expert Erin Helyard and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. […]What this production offers the audience is an astonishing series of images, always linked to the music and the stage action, never blandly repetitive: the first act opening with its accumulation of what another theatre composer has called ‘colour and light’; the second presenting a stage dotted with dozens of lit candles piercing the blackness; and throughout, an orchestra always responsive to the music’s requirement of crisp rhythms, clear textures, and carefully gauged shifts of mood and tempi.
Among the surfeit of musical riches, two real plusses for this production are the immensely disciplined singing of Cantillation (the chorus here) and the richly textured tone of the Orchestra of the Antipodes under Pinchgut Artistic Director Erin Helyard. The choruses in Theodora are among the sublime glories of the work, and Cantillation’s muscular yet nuanced singing carries them off with great aplomb. They act well too, with a great sense of individual character. In their potent hands, it’s clear why Handel ranked the imaginative, multi-sectioned He saw the lovely youth above any of his other choruses.The orchestra of 30 players sounds frankly out of this world. Handel’s oratorios drew from him larger and more varied orchestrations than in his operas, and Helyard has assembled an ensemble of Australia’s very best musicians. The string sound immediately strikes you as rich, dark and detailed. Many numbers in this powerful score have a heavy, inexorable tread and the sense of doom is grippingly conveyed in this reading. The terrific lower strings are augmented by a fine pair of bassoons, and the company’s proudest new acquisition, the rasping baroque contrabassoon, has to be heard (and seen) to be believed. Helyard has a great track record in Handel, his natural phrasing and instinct for pace lifting the music off the page again and again. His tasteful French snaps in the overture are just one of the many rhythmic felicities, while distinguished individual contributions from nocturnal flute in Theodora’s prison scene and braying horns for the Romans are compounded by lovely bustling violins in arias like Sweet rose and lily.[…] Theodora is worth it for four dazzling vocal performances, the sweep of the musical drama, and an authentic 18th-century sound that’s as grand as it is detailed.
Helyard led his superb orchestra in a compelling traversal of the score that was both vigorous and sensitive.
Pinchgut Opera’s Theodora review: Seraphic beauty fit for the choirs of angels. [5 stars]It is difficult to know what to commend most strongly – the ravishing beauty of Valda Wilson and Christopher Lowrey’s duets (Theodora and Didymus), the thrilling choral singing in Handel’s superbly scaffolded counterpoint, the glowing smoothness of contralto Caitlin Hulcup, or simply the quality of the score that the composer thought his best. […]One rarely hears them in such a tapestry of magnificence, created here by the choral ensemble Cantillation. The colours were not limited to the voices, however, and shaded oboe and flute and robustly open horn timbres created highlights to a balanced foundation from the Orchestra of the Antipodes.Conductor Erin Helyard led with insistently energised, flexibly elastic tempos and in some of the cadenzas time suspended itself for a moment so that truth and beauty could merge. Of all the Pinchgut productions to date, this was the most rewarding for its restrained, purposeful drama and seraphic musical refinement.
Photography Robert Catto
Handel’s score is one of endless appeal and invention. Conductor Erin Helyard and theOrchestra of the Antipodes’ swift speeds, rhythmic verve, well-integrated ensemble soundand curvaceous phrasing captured its captivating mix of propulsive energy and reflectivelyricism.
From the first bars of the overture, the Orchestra of the Antipodes exploded into the action under Erin Helyard’s energetic and deeply informed direction. Handel doesn’t write enough for the wind instruments, in my opinion, especially compared to the likes of Rameau and Charpentier – fancy getting a flautist just to play in one aria, tellingly effective as Michaela Oberg made its four notes – but when Handel does use them in this score, Erin Helyard made sure that no effect was lost. Particularly striking was Brock Imison’s extraordinary baroque contrabassoon, an instrument so long that it practically extended to the first gallery in Angel Place, and so low that the floor seemed to shake ever so slightly at its low notes. And the oboists Amy Power and Jane Downer – wow, to play the baroque oboe so that their sound excites an already exciting string sound, as they did, is something we hear all too rarely.Pinchgut is such a class act. I have heard almost all their productions, and even at the beginning the orchestra was already remarkable. Now what struck me was the easy yet elated confidence with which they play together as an ensemble, plastic, all going together, in unimpeachable Baroque style, with the slightest hint from their conductor. The direction, under the guidance of Lindy Hume, one of our leading directors, engaged deeply with the very modern issues that Theodora brings to the surface. And there is simply not a weak link on the stage. I say, go and hear it. You will have a hundred chances to hear Messiah, but far too few to hear this masterpiece.
Art has an ability to conflate the past, the present and the future; it does not follow the strictures of linear history. Pinchgut Opera’s Theodora, a George Handel oratorio of 1750, was the most contemporary creative work that I have seen this year. […] Conductor Erin Helyard was uncharacteristically firmly placed on his feet the whole night; he controlled the orchestra in a steady constancy that also encompassed the piety of the music. The orchestration was again a form of horizontal pulse on which the singers took flight.
Conductor Erin Helyard is a sure hand at Baroque music, and the Orchestra of the Antipodes was more than up to its usual standard, creating a sumptuous and subtle stream of sound, always in the service of the singers. Cantillation is an outstanding choir. Their perfect synchronisation and focus set off all the choruses to perfection; in a work of many such, perhaps worth singling out is “Go, gen’rous, pious youth”, sung with great beauty and an impressive hushed quality in the last lines.
Yet again, here under the magnificent direction of Lindy Hume, Pinchgut thrills and delights us with this glorious production. Musically and vocally it was ravishing, the Orchestra of the Antipodes under the bouncy, enthusiastic yet extremely precise direction of Erin Helyard were lush, dynamic and lyrical – soaring yet well controlled – look out for the contra bassoon especially required for this opera. Tempos were elastic and flexible, the strings rich velvety and detailed. A delicate haunting flute is featured in Theodora’s prison scene, contrasted with braying horns for the Romans especially in the opening feast after interval and scurrying violins in arias such as ‘Sweet Rose and Lily’.
Pinchgut Opera broke new ground in quality with a masterpiece by Handel, Theodora
Erin Helyard gives a wonderfully energetic performance as soloist in the harpsichord concerto, playing a French double-manual harpsichord. The quick-paced Hungarian Rondo features Haydn’s mischievous side with its offbeat crushed dissonant notes.
Continuing the mood of balance, clear-sightedness and optimism was the Australian Haydn ensemble on Saturday led by Skye McIntosh under conductor and fortepianist Erin Helyard. Helyard established a spacious tempo in Michael Haydn’s Symphony No. 25 in G major, bringing energised briskness to the fast music.He similarly captured the long arch while carefully shading the component motives with expressive nuance. In Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E flat, K. 449 Helyard and the Ensemble established an engaged dialogic framework, creating telling conversational moments of utterance and response in the second and third movement
Photography Hamish Lane
Here, as throughout the concert, Erin Helyard was alert and spirited in his direction of the small ensemble from the Orchestra of the Antipodes (which is “in residence” for this festival). Helyard is an eminent scholar and a superb executant in this repertoire: we are blessed to have him back in Australia.
Musically the production is in excellent hands with Erin Helyard at the helm of the Orchestra of the Antipodes. Agrippina is full of ideas that Handel would go on to borrow or develop in his next batch of operas and cantatas – there are even some he would recycle late in life – and for devotees it’s fun to play ‘spot the reference”. Helyard’s continuo group (Anton Baba on cello, Anthony Abouhamad on second harpsichord and Josep Maria Martí Duran on archlute and guitar) are a real standout, moulding the recitative to enormous effect and ensuring the pace never flags. His attention to orchestral detail is notable as ever – just listen to his way with Agripinna’s swinging waltz-time ‘Ogni vento’, or the creepy strings in her Lady Macbeth sequence. The stabbing dissonances in Ottone’s lament are delicately acidic, while the unpredictably accented beats in Claudio’s ‘Io di Roma il Giove sono’ keep the number packed full of life.
Looking like a stereotypical Disney wicked witch, Schneider has a beautifully focused vocal tone, perfectly balanced against the fine period-instrument sound that the estimable Erin Helyard gets out of the Orchestra of the Antipodes.
Courtesy of Brisbane Baroque
And below all this onstage salaciousness, a rich assortment of music beats, hums and blooms with eloquence and majesty. On period instruments, the Orchestra of the Antipodes were in superlative and vivacious form. Conducting with signature exuberance, Erin Helyard shapes the music like you’re watching and hearing it being created fresh on the spot for the first time as he builds orchestral excitement and harvests the unique sounds of the individual instruments. All the while, a near-at-hand, commanding sensitivity pervaded throughout as Helyard crafted to perfection the orchestral and vocal interplay.
Between Joyce and the indefatigable Erin Helyard on harpsichord, they kept these varied works moving with a great deal of fire and spirit. By way of recognition, Genaux made a point of regularly complimenting Joyce and Helyard each time she returned to the platform, and this particular three-way is clearly one of mutual respect.
Conversational recitatives in the 17th-century libretto style by Grimani, keep up a pace that dynamic conductor Erin Helyard demanded equally of his local Orchestra of the Antipodes. [...] Ultimately, though, it’s Helyard’s elegant shaping of Handel’s music that justifies this production’s appearance in Brisbane.
Australia’s own Orchestra of the Antipodes was energetically directed from the harpsichord by Erin Helyard, and added another level of joy.
What is the major premise of the festival I’ve seen to date is the high standard of presentation. Almost every performer has been immaculately cast, and often of international renown, while the standard of musical directorship and performance from Erin Helyard, for example, still at the height of his powers as an interpreter of this era, and Brett Weymark some of the best I’ve ever seen and a highlight of the festival.
[Top 5 Operatic Performances of 2015] Pinchgut Opera’s traditional December offering was André Grétry’s forgotten gem L’amant jaloux under conductor Erin Helyard. Ploughing the usual fault-lines of love and jealously, power and penury, the work is a pre-echo of Beaumarchais/Mozart’s Figaro with deft or deadpan wit from Ed Lyon, David Greco and Andrew Goodwin, and sparkling brilliance from Celeste Lazarenko, Alexandra Oomens and Jessica Aszodi. Twenty years ago, the consolidation of operatic activity into a single national company, although the right move for Opera Australia, was ominous for the art form. The artistically energetic younger companies, doing striking work on a shoestring with new and forgotten repertoire, are welcome green shoots in an ancient forest.
Fortunately, too, the production is blessed with musical assets in abundance. Erin Helyard conducts the admirable Orchestra of the Antipodes with enormous energy and flair. A human dynamo at the keyboard, Helyard urges, coaxes and generally proves a lightning rod for Handel’s musical ideas. Undaunted by the sheer length of the beast, each aria is given its due, laced with appropriate imaginative detail.
The singers are supported and enhanced by the wonderful Orchestra of the Antipodes, playing period instruments, under the direction of Erin Helyard.Helyard’s deep, insightful understanding of this demanding music is the seam of pure gold that binds all the elements together, guaranteeing that the structural integrity of the opera’s oddity is always delightfully accessible.
The Orchestra of the Antipodes, with Erin Halyard at the helm (and also at the harpsichord, often playing while standing), was unfailingly vivid and dramatically alert. Among treasurable highlights were the contributions of gleaming horns, Baroque guitar, and solo mandolin. The colours were delectable.
But even more in the spotlight was Erin Helyard’s passionate and animated dual performance on the harpsichord and as conductor for the very capable Orchestra of the Antipodes and captivating cast.
Erin Helyard was his usual energetic self, leading the group with his trademark mixture of continuo playing (often from a standing position) and conducting. The beautifully finessed phrasing spoke of an orchestra thoroughly versed in the 18th-century style.
Pinchgut’s artistic director, Erin Helyard, director Chas Rader-Shieber and translator Andrew Johnston have dusted off this little treasure and polished it to a high shine. […] the two instrumental entr’actes (from Stephen Lalor on mandolin and Melissa Farrow on baroque flute) are welcome punctuations, not just as showcases for the music, but also as a chance to catch one’s breath and revel in the gorgeous sonorities of Pinchgut’s band, the Orchestra of the Antipodes.”
Wonderful performances come from many different sources. One that intrigues me most is an apparently intuitive connection between the performer and the composer, or at least the era of the composer. No-one who has heard, for example, Roland Peelman performing the works of Roland Lassus, aided perhaps by the resonance of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, can avoid the uncanny feeling that he was there. So it is with Erin Helyard and French music of the 18th century. Grétry’s music is known to almost nobody. Most likely neither cast nor orchestra members had ever performed any before last night. And yet such is the depth of Helyard’s insight into this kind of music, combined with an unflagging zeal for researching it (he made a new edition of this opera for these Pinchgut performances) that one would be forgiven for thinking that we had here in Sydney a well-established tradition of performing 18th century French opera. (That we have a tradition at all is almost entirely thanks to Pinchgut Opera.) From the very first orchestral phrase, no pious delicacy, or any sense that we are entering uncharted waters, but instead a forthright, assured, highly expressive rhetorical vocabulary, extreme flexibility of phrasing, and an immediate sense that Helyard knows this style so well that it is completely natural.
Helyard’s gifts are clear. […] a world-class musician, part of the visionary team responsible for founding Pinchgut Opera in 2002. […] Pinchgut Opera’s tremendously popular performances confirm that both locals and tourists value high-quality concerts performed by Australian ensembles as a worthwhile investment. As of 2015, Pinchgut is funded solely by subscriptions and public donations. An electric excitement was transmitted from the orchestral musicians to the audience throughout the performance as the ensemble leapt at the challenging, rapid runs and dazzling ornamentation. With this underlying energy, the singers were supported throughout to give their best. The musical interludes played by Stephen Lalor on mandolin and Melissa Farrow on flute were a delight.
Pinchgut Opera Sydney was founded in 2002 and presents seldom performed operas of the Classical and Baroque. Pinchgut productions are wonderful rarities, even by Germany’s high standards. Many of these Baroque works had their premiere performance in Sydney. […] The Baroque orchestra, Orchestra of the Antipodes, astounds with magical, filigree sounds. Their director Erin Helyard also plays harpsichord, deep-voiced bassoons vie with high, delicate piccolos, the strings master the complex scores in a virtuosic tour-de-force. Life in full colour radiates through Sydney’s City Recital Hall, embellished with comedy. And with a young ensemble, whose fresh singing effortlessly creates palpable emotions in the numerous duets and quartets: Alexandra Oomens as Isabelle gives a compelling account of her flight from her guardian in her big soprano aria. Together with the ‘sympathetic’ Celeste Lazarenko (Léonore) and Jessica Aszodi (Jacinte), her lively yet warm trio was a highlight of the evening. But the male ensemble also seduces with strong, lyrical and easily understandable voices: the tenors Andrew Goodwin as Florival and Ed Lyon as Don Alonze, with bass-baritone David Greco (Don Lopez).
Faramondo is undoubtedly the hit of the festival — the concert hall at the Conservatorium has possibly the best acoustics in Brisbane, and the mainly international cast fill its space with never a dead spot. The orchestra is local — the Orchestra of the Antipodes, playing on period instruments, although some of them are re-created — and they are led from the harpsichord by the ebullient Erin Helyard, who holds both audience and performers in the palm of his hand, before tossing them all in the air until they are almost out of breath — the audience, that is.
Erin Helyard’s performance of piano masterworks from the 18th and 19th centuries combined virtuosic skill with erudition in a warm, intimate atmosphere. How wonderful that one of the world’s foremost young musicians, who teaches historically informed performance practice, should give such an exhilarating concert […] Helyard kept a continuous river of notes flying from his fingers to bring the instrument to life. Three lovely Polonaises melancoliques by Mozart’s son explored introspective emotions in broken, stretched rhythms and a climbing, searching treble melody. A surprisingly lovely lyre effect in the upper register was achieved in the Espressivo.On the Hornung & Moller square, Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor took on an almost Gothic intensity, and this work illustrated the very different sonority of a cross-strung, domestic piano.Helyard’s version of Schubert’s Impromptu in G Flat Major on the Graf was a truly beautiful performance. His tasteful use of the pedal and damping mechanisms created an ethereal clarity of sound, liberating each successive musical idea to communicate the composer’s intention to all those listening.
Erin Helyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes were […] stylish, alert, and gracefully shaped.
Bajazet is Pinchgut Opera’s second mid-year presentation, and its first venture into the delights of 18th-century pasticcio. It’s also a triumph. Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess and music director Erin Helyard have fashioned a tight, gripping piece of theatre from this torrid tale. City Recital Hall has been transformed into a wonky, war-torn palace where the characters’ state of dress and undress map their emotions. Ultimately, though, the music is the key and the Orchestra of the Antipodes provides a splendid frontdrop to the action.
Vivaldi brings out the best in Pinchgut. Bajazet rivals the company 2011 staging of that composer’s Griselda for the mantle of Pinchgut’s finest production. […] Conductor Erin Halyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes provided elegant, well-balanced accompaniments. Fast tempos, strong dynamic contrasts, forceful attack and incisive rhythmical drive generated energy and excitement while graceful phrasing and gleaming sonorities illuminated the composer’s lyrical passages.
The score is given an exemplary reading by Erin Helyard and the admirable Orchestra of the Antipodes. Scored for strings, bowed and plucked, with bassoon (no oboes or flutes) and an occasional pair of horns, the orchestrations are remarkably diverse and come over in full, in-your-face Baroque Technicolor thanks to Helyard’s sensitivity to texture and his band’s flair for the dramatic.
Throughout Vivaldi’s score, it was Erin Helyard’s voluptuously gestured and passionate conducting that bound the pasticcio with the greatest force. Helyard doctored a luscious reading of the music, adding rump and exposing sinew within his fleshy, vibrant interpretation. On period instruments, musicians of the Orchestra of the Antipodes responded with energy and precision, just as exciting to watch as the action on stage.
Director Thomas De Mallet Burgess and Conductor Erin Helyard finely balance the requirements of an original – newly discovered – score with the dramatic needs of a contemporary production. The results are superb. […] The performances are outstanding. As Conductor Erin Helyard elicits a sound both exacting and mercurial, rich with changes in dynamics and tone.
Under the elegant, graceful baton of maestro Erin Helyard, the Orchestra of the Antipodes gave a refined, superlative performance on their period instruments.
Artistic director Erin Helyard edited and conducted the score with the superb Orchestra of the Antipodes. It’s another triumph for historical research and informed performance: the result is both thrilling and thought-provoking.
But the musical achievement for this entire production is absolutely staggering. Erin Helyard conducts the Orchestra of the Antipodes with plenty of fire, and draws the type of performance from them you could expect from a rock concert — dynamic but with a relentless rhythmic drive.
Bajazet in the hands of conductor Erin Helyard was a real treat. Helyard in appearance and composure brought a youthfulness and unique style all of his own that beautifully contrasted the ancient instruments played by the talented Orchestra of the Antipodes. Helyard was sensational to watch, his conducting style caressed and snapped Vivaldi’s engaging score masterfully.
Salieri was a master orchestrator, and Erin Helyard and the excellent Orchestra of the Antipodes immerse themselves to the hilt in his imaginative sound world. From the energetic overture to the folksy ländlers of the finale, this is a revelatory reading. Time and again the ear is tickled by moments of passing loveliness – flute, oboe and pizzicato strings in Volpino’s aria to the little birds; the surging strings in Wolf’s storm aria – the list could go on at considerable length. Helyard is not just a wiz at bringing out the felicitous colours, he’s also a terrific dramatist, urging band and singers on to bring out every musical gift that Salieri gives. The ridiculous version of the Ganymede myth (it’s in German but otherwise it’s alright, declares Miss Hawk) is just one of the operatic sendups that Helyard plays to the hilt.
Superbly directed by Mark Gaal and accompanied by one of Australia’s finest group of musicians, the Orchestra of the Antipodes, the magnificent ensemble cast are outstanding. Led by Maestro Dr Erin Helyard, they entrance and enthrall as they act out Salieri’s delightful romp.
Many of the musical highlights come from in front of the stage, at the hands of Pinchgut co-artistic director Erin Helyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. Salieri is in their debt: […] Helyard goes at it all with pace and commitment.
Erin Helyard, directing the Orchestra of the Antipodes from the harpsichord, was the ideal Handel conductor bringing swift and brisk tempi, but enough lyricism and beauty to ensure it all seemed not a moment too long. The following night, Helyard and his admirable ensemble were joined in concert by Catalan countertenor Xavier Sabata, whose voice (think of a cocktail of smoke and steel) brought vitality and brilliance to arias by Vivaldi and Handel.
But it is Helyard who must take the evening’s highest honours, for musical direction that lends clarity to every word, bends supply with the speech rhythms of the recitatives, lets his excellent instrumentalists breath and articulate as one, has the dramatic pace of a good thriller, and walks the tightrope between laughter and tears with consummate grace. This is a delight of unexpected substance amid Sydney’s summertime festive season.
Pinchgut stage it all with great economy on a mocked up stage in Sydney’s City Recital Hall with a crack band of 13 (a beautifully enthusiastic Orchestra of the Antipodes) lead by the magnetic Erin Helyard, whose graceful ducking and weaving provides an evening’s entertainment all of its own. Helyard doesn’t put a foot wrong all night and his sense of communion with orchestra and singers is total.
Is there room for more superlatives? Because behind all these performances stands the figure of Erin Helyard, both conductor and researcher of this production. His achievement is colossal. I didn’t know a note of this opera before last night, and I can guarantee that there wouldn’t have been five people in the audience who did. Helyard has sunk himself so deeply in both the musical style and the cultural background of this piece that he was able to present it almost as if he’d written it himself. The orchestra consistently played exactly as the singers sang (how often can one say that even of the finest opera performances?) and he knows the style so well that every unusual feature was understood and brought out. In a musical style so broadly consonant the precisely used dissonances sounded very special; the orchestra imitated Medea’s supernatural powers with rasping string sounds; Kamala Bain’s magical recorder playing seemed to add a whole wind-section in terms of sonic variety; the continuo section of two harpsichords, organ, and two theorbo-like instruments was used with a variety and subtlety so deep that I expect the audience hardly noticed it. (The greatest praise for a continuo player is that they weren’t noticed). This was truly a performance where research was embodied in performance so completely that the performance transcended all traces of a profoundly academic foundation.
The birth of opera celebrated the sensuality of the voice, the buoyant spring of dance rhythms and the subtly inflected expressivity of the new style of sung-speech, recitative. Too much of the last mentioned is tedious, but in this revival of Cavalli’s Giasone under the imaginative and energised leadership of conductor Erin Helyard, it provided a supple, nuanced and delicately shaded way of guiding the listener through a plot of baroque complexity and absurdity.
A fine, well-balanced cast is headed by astounding countertenor David Hansen in the title role, the Orchestra of the Antipodes is in fine fettle, and if there’s anything more joyous than the full-body conducting of Erin Helyard I haven’t seen it in a long while.
… superb harpsichordist and polymath Erin Helyard.
Leading from the keyboard in his Concerto for Harpsichord WQ 23, Helyard brought out this originality with careful phrasing and nuance, building on its contrasts and sudden shifts without affectation or exaggeration.
Musical direction for Hobart Baroque was in the expert hands of Erin Helyard, a specialist in early music now based in Wellington.
Guest Director Erin Helyard [...] executed the relentless cascades of notes with incisive articulation and dexterity.
Erin Helyard led the ensemble with controlled fervor, while alternating harpsichord and organ in works by Hasse, Albinoni, and dall’ Abaco.
Maestro Helyard conducts with the confidence of a man who knows that his understanding of his task is complete: none of Vivaldi’s quicksilver changes of dramatic pace or rhythmic speed bumps finds him unprepared. Presumably at the suggestion of la Girò, Vivaldi’s music for the title character is littered with pregnant pauses, and Maestro Helyard navigates these dramatically critical devices with a sure hand.
The Orchestra of the Antipodes, under the acute direction of Erin Helyard, plays with vitality and expressive intensity.
Conductor Erin Helyard leads the Orchestra of the Antipodes with animated vigour, sophisticated style and judicious harnessing of abrupt contrast and suave fluency.
“he other crucial element in maintaining pace is the energised, naturally musical momentum brought by the conductor Erin Helyard and the stylish playing of the Orchestra of the Antipodes. Helyard worked tirelessly over articulation, expressive variety and rhythmic tautness to maintain interest in a virtuosic score built on Vivaldi’s mastery at regulating the passage of time through sequence and effortless note spinning.
Under the direction of conductor-harpsichordist Erin Helyard, the Orchestra of the Antipodes provided well-balanced accompaniments. Swift speeds, propulsive rhythms and emphatic attack generated energy and drama while lyrical sections benefited from soft-grained sonorities. Griselda is Pinchgut Opera’s finest production yet.
The performances of the soloists and orchestra [in Griselda] are truly world class. Cancel those flights to Berlin, see this instead.
There are many strong dynamic changes but Vivaldi uses many nuanced levels between soft and loud through the opera, and conductor Erin Helyard took much care in judging these dynamic changes while balancing the color of the orchestra. […] Helyard judged the tempi well, pacing the drama and giving it momentum, while giving the instrumental music expression to make it worthy of a concert on its own. In his articulation and accenting the instruments had quite a vocal quality, obviously very different from that of the singers, but wonderful in conversation with them and he kind of jives as he conducts, when not playing harpsichord; maybe Baroque instrumental music should ‘dance’ as well as ‘speak’. He creates music which is very alive, with clear, sometimes almost punchy, tutti pulsations, for example, but always clear, with the strings being especially versatile.
Then again, Erin Helyard’s erudite program notes are among the best as any I’ve seen in any release, and that exemplary quality counts for something, too.
Directing from the harpsichord, conductor Erin Helyard maintains excellent balance between the comic brilliance and the genuine pathos of Cavalli’s mercurial score. Helyard’s recedet and mobile leadership draws an astonishing variety of colour from a reduced incarnation of Pinchgut’s regular band, the Orchestra of the Antipodes. Their performance is taut, precise and frequently enchanting, replete with the exoticism this Venice-meets-Fez extravaganza demands. Sydney affords few better examples of the depth of artistic talent on offer in this country than Pinchgut. Combining as it does the lucid leadership of both Helyard and Masel with a first-rate cast and an especially felicitous repertoire choice, this irresistible L’Ormindo might just be the company’s finest achievement yet.
Erin Helyard led from one of the latter [harpsichords], and coaxed out of his forces an amazingly sumptuous and sonorous realm of sound.
With strong musical leadership from Erin Helyard, the Orchestra of the Antipodes and youthful cast nurture the sensuous side of this music – its flowing, stylised lines and frequent cadences, its freedom, lilt and tendency to flower into ornamentation that rapidly bubbles across the orchestral texture.
Cavalli’s music reveals a composer with strong melodic and dramatic gifts. Under Erin Helyard’s focused direction, the polished sonorities, incisive attack and sinuous phrasing of the Orchestra of the Antipodes realise both aspects of the score.
At times the 31-year-old sits at the instrument, straight backed, playing calmly; at others he appears to be in his own world, demonically bashing out chords. One minute he’s mouthing the words with the singers, crouched over the instrument like the keyboard player in a rock band; the next he’s back on his stool, conducting with his right arm, playing with his left hand.
La troupe, menée avec verve et imagination (cf. les instruments quasi gelés de L’Hiver) par Erin Helyard, s’est signalée par sa cohérence et son envie de s’amuser sur scène […] On retiendra tout de même avant tout le travail d’équipe et la formidable communion entre artistes et public.
Au fond du plateau, Erin Helyard dirigea, avec une rare souplesse de phrasé, la Bande Montréal Baroque – une vingtaine de musiciens, dont beaucoup de vents, comme le requiert cette musique colorée. […] Le mérite des interprètes n’en est que plus grand.
[L]e claveciniste Erin Helyard est un virtuose.