Sounds are spectacular as opera scenes in churches are performed Sin and pride portrayed as Annapolis Theater uses church as stage

March 19, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SUN STAFF

Operatic sinners came to the altar at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Annapolis Sunday night.

Manon the vamp seduced novice priest Des Grieux. Unwed mother Sister Angelica was disconsolate when she learned of the death of her son from her aunt, a self-righteous character full of pride. Mephistopheles, himself, ascended the altar to taunt Faust's fallen woman Marguerite.

Perhaps most sinful of the lot was the villainous hypocrite Scarpia, plotting to seduce Tosca as he joined in the "Te Deum" with the rest of the parishioners as the Annapolis Opera presented scenes from famous operas that take place in churches.

And while they may have been guilty of lust and pride, none of them committed the unpardonable sin of poor singing. The reverberant sanctuary of St. Mary's enhanced the voices of the singers. When the chorus joined the soloists, supported by the church organ, the sound was spectacular.

The Annapolis Opera Company presented six fine soloists -- George Aud, James Bailey, Robert Cantrell, Connie Coffelt, Deborah Kieffer, and Laura Vicari -- and a chorus, all of them from John Bowen's Opera Vivente.

Sunday, Bowen served as stage director. Jeffrey Pollack was conductor, and pianist Susan Slingland was accompanist.

Aud, Cantrell, Coffelt and Vicari have appeared in Annapolis Opera performances previously, but Bailey and Kieffer were new.

Bailey possesses a bright, resonant voice, and he is a skilled enough actor to convey the passion of Chevalier des Grieux.

Kieffer, a contralto who has sung in opera houses in Europe and the United States, is a commanding presence on stage. Her voice was well displayed in the role of La Zia Principessa from Puccini's "Suor Angelica," beautifully blending and contrasting in duet with Connie Coffelt as Sister Angelica.

Coffelt, who recently took third place in the Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions, has a powerful voice that is secure in all ranges, and able to sustain notes.

Vicari's voice has great clarity and beauty that takes on the color appropriate to the role. It was light and lyrical as Gounod's Juliet; full and soaring as Massenet's Manon or Gounod's Marguerite.

Bass-baritone Cantrell, recently heard as Escamillo in Annapolis Opera's "Carmen," was in fine voice Sunday. His Scarpia was the dramatic highlight of the evening.

The opera's 25th season continues with a performance at City Dock of "H.M.S. Pinafore" May 2 in honor of the Whitbread Race.

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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