Annapolis Opera gives standout performance

August 13, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When John Bowen took over as Annapolis Opera director a year ago, he realized how perfect a setting the gardens of Carroll House overlooking Spa Creek would be for summer chorales.

Until Bowen turned things around, audiences faced a stage set against a brick wall of the house, their backs to the water.

On Saturday, the audience at an opera-under-the-stars performance got to enjoy some glorious music and a panoramic watery backdrop complete with a full moon and gentle breezes.

The standouts vocally and dramatically were soprano Laura Vicari and baritone Steven Goodman. Vicari has a beautiful voice and convincingly conveys a range of emotions. Refreshingly free of vanity, Vicari seems a genuine ensemble player, who instills confidence in less-experienced colleagues.

Goodman also has impressive stage presence. His rich baritone can take on a warm luster, as heard in "Warm as the Autumn Night" from Douglas Moore's 1956 folk opera "The Ballad of Baby Doe." Goodman seemed equally at home with Puccini, Gounod, Leoncavallo and Mozart. He sang a stunning "Questo Amor," Pucinni's dramatic aria from his seldom heard second opera, "Edgar."

As Silvio and Nedda, Goodman and Vicari delivered the evening's high point of emotional intensity and passion in the duet from Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci." Their voices were beautifully matched as they expressed emotions ranging from Silvio's lyrical tenderness to Nedda's restrained longing, which rose to a soaring passion before reaching a steamy conclusion. Their bravura performance made me want to see Goodman and Vicari in a full opera production.

Mezzo-soprano Siobhan Kolker proved adept at playing vampish Musetta of "La Boheme" and newly widowed Martha of "Faust." She showed a comic flair when she joined Vicari in "Prendero quel brunettino" from Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte." Both were delightful as giggling sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, who anticipated toying with their suitors' affections.

George Aud has a pleasing tenor voice, which he uses well, never guilty of the dreaded tenor affliction of straining for high notes. At first a bit wooden, Aud relaxed in a charming comedy duet with Vicari. "Torna, dir che m'ami" from Verdi's "Don Pasquale" was a pleasant interlude, Vicari skillfully matching Aud but never upstaging him.

Together, the four singers offered a superb "Garden Quartet" from Gounod's "Faust."

Goodman was devilishly attractive and convincing as Mephistopheles, teamed with Kolker, a sexy and spirited Martha. Vicari as the shy Marguerite conveyed a sweet lightness that melted into lyricism as she gave in to Faust's pleadings. Aud proved a tender and persuasive Faust.

I've attended a number of the Annapolis Opera's summer musicales at Carroll House and would rank Saturday evening's program near the top in artistry, drama and visual appeal.

I suspect that the receptive audience of record-setting numbers agreed.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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