Australia’s great Wagnerian soprano returns to the concert stage on home turf.

There was a wonderful moment at the Governor’s Gala concert last weekend at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. Fêted soprano Lisa Gasteen, the singer who has enthralled audiences at the Met and Covent Garden, was set to make her first appearance with orchestra since a neck injury sustained three years ago forced her to cancel all opera engagements and threatened to prevent her from performing ever again. A Wagnerian star performing with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at a chamber music event was unusual enough in itself, but there was the added frisson of a triumphant comeback.

As patrons took their seats, the air seemed thick with anticipation for the luscious Zemlinsky songs in the second half. Just as the lights dimmed and musicians readied themselves for the first item on the program, we heard the strains of a singer warming up backstage in the depths of the theatre. The high notes were so penetrating that a stagehand had to run and silence the offender before the concert could begin. It could only be Lisa Gasteen, in glorious full voice.

Later, seated in a noisy café, she asks...

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