Melburnians haven’t heard Nicole Car since 2014, when she was a luminous Tatiana in Kasper Holten’s production of Eugene Onegin. Much has happened to the Melbourne-born lyric soprano since then, primarily in Sydney at first with several big Mozart and Verdi roles (Pamina, Fiordiligi, Violetta, Luisa Miller), but now, increasingly, overseas. At thirty-three, Car has already sung major roles in Paris, London, Munich, and New York – quite a feat. In September 2018 she made her Metropolitan Opera début as Mimì, a role she sang to considerable acclaim in a new production at the Royal Opera House in 2017. In June 2019 she repeated her Donna Elvira in a new production at the Paris Opera (Garnier).
Car’s national tour coincides with her lustrous début as Ellen Orford in the recent Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert performances of Peter Grimes. Here, she performs in a (mostly) French and Spanish program.
The Melbourne program was only slightly different from the Sydney one that preceded it by four days. There was no trace of the declared cold that beset Car in Sydney. Her alternating contributions grew in power and expressiveness as the night went on. The first, Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage, was notable for Car’s subtle singing of ‘Luxe, calme et volupté’, that greatest of lines in modern poetry. Best of all, until the opera took over, were Jules Massenet’s Élégie and Reynaldo Hahn’s L’heure exquise, sung with delicacy and poise, and Léo Delibes’s sparkling Les filles de Cadix.