The following review was written by Randy Zahara, manager of the Kelowna Community Theatre in British Columbia, Canada:
On April 19, 2011 something amazing happened at the Kelowna Community Theatre, and although, widely anticipated, the impact on the audience was completely unexpected.
Fernando Varela, one of the world’s most promising young tenors took the stage and moved the audience with a performance that was an emotionally beautiful, completely entertaining and captivating blend of classical opera and classic rock. As the manager of the Kelowna Community Theatre, I have attended many great performances over the past eight years, however, I have never before witnessed such a powerful post-event audience reaction.
Fernando began the concert singing the classic “Granada’, in the wings out of sight of the audience and before he had walked the short distance to the microphone stand at centre stage he had already won the audience over. The person I was sitting beside and I just looked at one another, both mouthing the same words, “Oh, My God!” From the very beginning of the concert, through to the final notes of the encore, which was a brilliantly arranged blending of “O Solo Mio” with “It’s Now or Never” ( where Fernando holds an incredibly powerful note for an unheard of, full thirty seconds), was a span of over two hours, but, under Fernando’s spell, the time seemed to go by in a matter of minutes.
Listening to the audience reaction to the various songs throughout the concert was also a unique experience, as it became very clear that Fernando had attracted a broad spectrum of music lovers, from those who started cheering at the first few notes of Nessun Dorma, to the screams that erupted at the beginning of the Bohemian Rhapsody, to the people singing along to Orbison’s “Pretty Women”, to the women I saw weeping openly at Fernando’s delivery of Elvis’s “American Trilogy”. Although they all may have come with a specific genre of music in mind, they all left united by the brilliance and power of Fernando’s performance and of an evening that was pure magic.
It has taken me three days to write this review, as I have needed the time to truly absorb what I had witnessed the evening Fernando performed at the Kelowna Community Theatre, and in that time I have had numerous people telephone me, email me, drop into my office and stop me in the street to let me know how moved they had been by Fernando’s performance, and what an unbelievable experience it had been for them. As I have already mentioned, I saw women weeping openly, unable to speak immediately after the concert as they had been moved so emotionally by Fernando’s voice and grace on stage, and, I, myself, at one point, laughed out loud, at the surprise of hearing a sustained note of such purity, power and beauty that it was completely unexpected, and I had no personal reference for witnessing such an amazing musical moment.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the stellar group of musicians who accompanied Fernando Varela on stage, as they were nothing less than absolutely brilliant. Ron Paley on Piano is one of the finest musical arrangers and concert pianists in North America, and his sense of how to exploit the incomparable talent of Fernando Varela was a significant contribution to the success of the evening. On Bass, Gord Maxwell was flawless and his supporting harmonies were pitch perfect. The drummer, Murray Smith was fabulous, with an accurate and crisp style that showed his experience and also a deep understanding and grasp of the arrangements created by Ron Paley. On lead guitar was Mr. Lee Worden who’s solo’s were another one of the many highlights of the evening and who truly showed off his talent when he tackled Bohemian Rhapsody with all the skills of a Brian May.
Judging by the number of people who told us after the performance that it had been the best concert they had ever attended, I think that Fernando’s promise to return to the Kelowna Community Theatre in the not too distant future, will be one event that Packing the House Productions will have no problem selling tickets for.