Opera excerpts hit right note in big crowd Larger setting works well for 'Six Operas'

March 26, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When the Annapolis Opera presents opera excerpts, it usually does so with piano accompaniment in an intimate musicale setting before a small group.

But Saturday evening, the local company went in a new direction. In "Six Operas in Three Acts," it presented preludes, arias and full scenes from "Carmen," "Andrea Chenier," "Lohengrin," "Der Rosenkavalier," "Faust" and "Rigoletto," with Ronald Gretz on the podium conducting the Annapolis Opera Orchestra before a large crowd at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

The rationale behind such a concert is so sound that, I dare say, the company may have started a wonderful tradition. Clearly, the Annapolis Opera has access to talented singers and players. But full-scale productions are prohibitively expensive and must be limited to one per year. Additionally, there is obviously an audience for opera in and around Annapolis and -- voila! -- an evening of full-blown excerpts, orchestra included, is just the ticket.

Many bright spots were evident in Saturday's performance.

There was an extraordinary "Nemico della patria" from Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" rendered by Morgan Reed, the lustrous baritone.

He also put his keen dramatic sensibilities to work in "Avant de quitter" from Gounod's "Faust" and in a crackling account of the final act of Verdi's "Rigoletto," with fellow singers Fleta Hylton, Harry Dunstan, Chris Flint and Mary Ann Stewart.

There was also a gorgeous "Presentation of the Rose" from Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier," courtesy of mezzo Ms. Stewart and soprano Ms. Hylton, and an attractive, lyrical "Salut demeure" from "Faust," sung by tenor Harry Dunstan.

On the downside were some rather pale, prissy arias from "Carmen," a grossly out-of-tune "La mamma morta" from soprano Elizabeth Lyra Ross, who had a tough night at the office, and enough "marbles in the mouth" French pronunciations to keep a Gallic Henry Higgins employed for decades.

Along with the nitpicking, I offer two suggestions for future concerts: Selections should be chosen not only for what singers can sing, but what the orchestra can play; and scripted commentary is in order -- Ron Gretz is an excellent opera conductor, but an off-the-cuff public speaker he's not.

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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