Midshipmen deliver riveting scenes from opera world Concert features songs from 'Carmen,' 'Faust,' 'Pirates of Penzance'

April 16, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We know from recent events that the folks over at the Naval Academy have developed a flair for soap opera. But on Saturday evening, the midshipmen proved they could handle grand opera as well.

The occasion was "A Night at the Opera," a program of opera choruses in which the local troops were joined by the Goucher College Chorus and members of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

John Barry Talley took the Alumni Hall podium to conduct this 23rd annual "Spring Oratorio" concert -- the final event on this season's Distinguished Artists Series.

Many of opera's most riveting moments were served up by the young singers. There was a ripping Toreador March from Bizet's "Carmen," a deliciously tacky Soldiers' Chorus from Gounod's "Faust," and a beautifully paced account of Borodin's well-traveled "Polovtsian Dances." Dr. Talley is one conductor who doesn't like to rush and, when Borodin's stemwinder is allowed to breathe a bit and unravel of its own accord, all manner of exciting things can happen.

The young male voices sounded especially at home in the "Sailor's Hornpipe" from Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" and there were spirited renditions of three Giuseppe Verdi hits. The Anvil Chorus from "Il Trovatore," the Triumphal Scene from "Aida" and the inevitable "Va, pensiero" from "Nabucco."

Snappy and charming selections from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" and a quick "On My Way" from "Porgy and Bess" rounded out the program.

The chorus sounded bright, enthusiastic and well-prepared. If the voices were a bit too pointed and straight at times, well, such is the nature of youth, gymnasiums and jacked-up microphones.

Delightful scripted commentary from Professor David White added class and humor to the occasion.

In fact, this was one of those concerts from which everyone benefited. The audience clearly had a ball. The young musicians got the thrill of performing some of the most tuneful and famous music ever written. The ASO players got to leave the sonic deathtrap of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and really make some noise for a change. (The brasses sounded spectacular!)

But the biggest beneficiary of all had to be the academy itself, which got a chance to showcase its better nature amid the sex offenders, drug dealers, car thieves and disgruntled professors who have been hogging the headlines lately.

I suspect Dr. Talley and his singers did more to reclaim the Navy's good name Saturday night than all the press conferences and action plans in the world.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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