Looking back at a year filled with superb music Production of 'Figaro' among year's highlights

December 31, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Year's end is traditionally when we savor the best of the year's entertainment and salute the artists who achieved new heights in local arts.

Our county was treated to some superb musical moments in 1998. One was Annapolis Opera's October production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," gloriously sung by a cast that included two magnificent baritones, Jeffrey Buchman as Count Almaviva and Thomas Zielinski as Figaro.

Under the direction of Ronald J. Gretz, the opera was a triumph for the orchestra and chorus. The opera was visually stunning, with a striking set, skilled lighting and fabulous costumes, indicating none of the budgetary constraints so apparent in previous productions.

I'd rate as its equal Annapolis Chorale's brilliant "Cavalleria Rusticana" in concert in November, which followed Baltimore Opera's fully staged version of Mascagni's masterpiece by a few weeks. Both productions featured glorious voices with excellent orchestral and choral support, Annapolis Chorale matching the larger company's show in everything but budget.

Diana Reed's Santuzza was compelling in her beauty and

emotional power. Tenor Paul McIlvaine's Turridu was a riveting match. Coloratura soprano Susan Whitenack as Lola, Susan Minisavage as Mama Lucia and bass-baritone Scott Root as Alfio were also great finds.

For the second year, Ballet Theatre of Annapolis gave an exciting performance of artistic director Edward Stewart's original dance adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." In the title role, former Bolshoi Ballet dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev was brilliant, as were his partners Natasha Kiryanova, Leslie Bradley and Zhirui Zou, this year's artist in residence from the National Ballet of China.

Memorable outdoor concerts included Baltimore Symphony's third annual Fourth of July concert at the Anne Arundel Community College campus and two Annapolis Symphony Labor Day concerts with music director Leslie Dunner making his debut at Downs Park and at Quiet Waters. These free concerts on national holidays provide thousands of county residents the opportunity to hear fine orchestras in informal settings.

I hope County Executive Janet S. Owens continues this tradition, initiated by her predecessor, John G. Gary.

A different kind of peak came in the re-creation of the 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert at the Jazz at the Music Hall series in January. This night of swing featured Joe Midiri on clarinet and his equally talented brother Paul Midiri on vibes and trombone. The concert was repeated in September at the

Performing Arts Association of Linthicum's opener, establishing a new high in PAAL's history.

In October, Anne Arundel Community Concert Association made some of its own history when it opened the 48th season with Ernest Green and the Annapolis Chorale mixing Motown and art songs at Severna Park High School.

Always serving up top-notch entertainment, the folks at Chesapeake Music Hall topped themselves in September with "42nd Street," featuring a talented cast dancing and singing their way into the hearts of the audience. A sellout, "42nd Street" returns by popular demand in January, providing another chance to catch a show that will chase away the winter blahs.

Forget the cold as we toast the old year and anticipate a 1999 filled with even more spectacular entertainment.

Pub Date: 12/31/98

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