My Brightest Diamond

My Brightest Diamond_credit Prudence Upton_15
Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Opera House

Opera Theatre, May 27, 2012

 If butterflies could make music it would sound like this. It would have these moments of daintiness and explosions of riotous colour. Brooding thoughts would be underpinned by such fluttering beauty or sheer charm.

 Shara Worden arrived clutching so large a bunch of helium-filled balloons as must nearly have wafted her into the Opera Theatre’s flies. Her frock, meanwhile, was a dazzling confection from the other side of Alice’s looking-glass.

 My Brightest Diamond is her fantasy world, where all the silly, grown-up notions of genre are washed away by a tide of extraordinary musical ingenuity; where rock crumbles into opera, and cabaret dissolves into contemporary classical music.

My Brightest Diamond_credit Prudence Upton_04
Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Opera House

 It is not easy to reinvent the song form, but Worden does it, notably on her All Things Will Unwind album. She delivered these songs with a pitch-perfect voice of phenomenal tonal purity, and yet one that was effervescent rather than affected.

 Escape Routes began with the resonant line, “It takes a lifetime to learn how to love”. Yet she made it an elfin thought, flickering through space and time as it caught the light of the instrumentation.

 Worden’s ukulele, thumb-piano, autoharp, keyboard and guitar were joined by Brian Wolfe’s expert drumming, while Nadia Sirota (viola) marshalled five locals (violin, cello, flute/piccolo, clarinets, trumpet/flugelhorn) through Worden’s challenging scores.

 Even when her guitar became primal in rock’s fiercest sonic tradition there was no bombast about the playing. The fierceness was a thing of joy, just like the lightness. This was also evident on a cheeky cover of Tainted Love (just with Wolfe), which seemed a spur-of-the moment decision.

 Finally she melted us with I Have Never Loved Someone The Way I Love You, and was gone, fluttering from the stage. It was like awaking from a dream. The only regret was that her voice was not mixed more prominently, so the pixie thoughts in her lyrics could spill more easily into our minds.