Caitlin Hulcup has been based in Europe for the past 20 years, winning praise everywhere from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden to the Vienna Sate Opera.

It’s a rare treat to hear this gifted mezzo back in the city of her birth, especially as the pandemic delayed the Caitlin Hulcup and Friends recital by two years. And what illustrious friends she had for this one-off performance of songs from the Romantic era: concert pianist Kristian Chong and the MSO’s Associate Principal Violist Fiona Sargeant.

Given the wait and all this talent, it’s puzzling that so few tickets were sold that the audience took their seats on the stage of Melbourne Recital Centre’s Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. What good fortune for those who grasped the opportunity, however, as this intimate setting offered an exceptional aural experience, and the chance to really see how the performers physically express their artistry.

The first half of the 100-minute program was dedicated to German repertoire, which Hulcup interpreted with assured, natural diction (perhaps no surprise given her husband is Austrian). This was but one reason to delight in a performance that also showcased her rich tone, graceful, agile vocal lines and melting expressiveness.