Reuben Pace

Blog 81 - Charlene Portelli

In this week’s blog Charlene Portelli, one of the sopranos in the City of Humanity vocal ensemble talks about her experience in the premier of City of Humanity 1 on the 14th of November last year.

Back in May 2018, I was approached by composer Dr Reuben Pace to sit for an audition to form part of his professional vocal ensemble for the first opera in the first ever Maltese opera cycle, Belt Il-Bniedem – Swar, Part 1. I felt honoured and privileged to get chosen to form part of this great and ambitious project which had the Maltese language, history, folklore and music at its heart.

Intensive rehearsals for the vocal ensemble were held during the unbearably hot summer days with the great support of choir conductors and our piano repetiteurs. As a professional soprano, singing in an ensemble proved to be rather challenging at first. In ensemble singing, voices need to blend beautifully together to bring out the harmonic and melodic textures of the music. This was indeed a great exercise to go back to the good old days of choir singing.

As a Music and Art educator by profession, I would like now to mention aspects which left a mark on me. I really liked the fact that this opera brought together highly artistic people from all fields who tirelessly worked together ‘’in the name of art’’. Working with eight equally professional vocal ensemble members was truly an enjoyable and positive learning experience. Also, I was delighted to work with top notch Maltese opera stars and International cast, our very own Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, and our very own School of Music children’s choir.

What struck me most was that the musical score and the libretto were written in a way that they seamlessly blended the conventional way of writing with the contemporary idiom. This parallel was constantly reflected in the stage directions and the choreography which we were asked to convey on stage. Attention to detail was key – which I think was the secret ingredient which made the world Premier of Belt il-Bniedem – Swar, Part 1 - a first - a one of a kind.


In the next blog, Michel Moxham, the stage director of City of Humanity 1 shall talk about his experience of directing a brand new opera in a language totally alien to him