`Timeless Arias' carries the day

Opera: Gifted actor-singers in this outstanding program of excerpts help lift the Annapolis Opera to new heights.

Arundel Live

March 30, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Annapolis Opera's artistic director Ronald J. Gretz came up with an idea to present a program of excerpts from operas that the company, because of its small size, had never performed nor was likely to perform soon. Called "Timeless Arias -- A Concert of Opera's Greatest Moments," the company performed it Saturday at Maryland Hall.

Such a program can succeed only if it includes music that is familiar, melodic and dramatic, and features a fine orchestra and gifted actor-singers who can convey every nuance of each aria.

Gretz succeeded, choosing familiar arias from a wide range of Italian, French, German and Russian opera. He led an orchestra of about 25 musicians who supported six talented singers who seem to be on the threshold of operatic stardom.

Prima donna status might be accorded soprano Meagan Miller, who dazzled the audience in an exquisite "Depuis le jour" from Gustave Charpentier's "Louise," delivering a seemingly effortless interpretation. Miller seems capable of holding notes indefinitely, her large voice filling the hall, while barely testing her vocal reserves. She moved easily from Charpentier's aria to a stunning Jewel Song from "Faust" then to Mozart's "Ah, for me, then, will you perish" from "The Abduction from the Seraglio."

Equally impressive was bass-baritone Daesan No, winner of Annapolis Opera's 1999 Vocal Competition, whose voice was thrilling then and seemed more so Saturday. Deeply resonant, his voice has a remarkable range that has a basso profundo extension and the midbaritone range needed for Rigoletto's "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata."

No's singing of Rigoletto's aria was so moving that he must be a candidate to sing the role in the fall in Annapolis. He exhibits superb acting skills with vocal agility that is rare for a bass-baritone.

As Wolfram, No delivered an "O du mein holder abendstern" ("Evening Star") from "Tannhauser" equal to James Johnson's heralded interpretation heard a week earlier at Baltimore Opera.

In the richly contrasting quartet of reconciliation and parting from Puccini's "La Boheme," No strikingly conveyed Marcello's anger at Musetta, and later he proved a lilting, romantic Falke in the sextet from "Die Fledermaus."

Mezzo-soprano Susan Yankee's performance was also remarkable. Her large, lustrous voice has a creamy texture and compelling beauty. Yankee sang a lovely "Voi lo sapete, o mammma" from "Cavalleria Rusticana" and a seductive "Mon Coeur s'ouvre a la voix" from Camille Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah."

Heard in Annapolis as the Sacristan in "Tosca," baritone Christopher Flint made a delightful return visit, displaying great power and a pleasing warm tone in "Il lacerato spirito" from Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" and in Leporello's aria "Madamina" from Mozart's "Don Giovanni."

Tenor Eric Dillner sang with considerable power and expressiveness in Alfredo's aria "De'miei bollenti spiriti" from Verdi's "La Traviata," and as Rudolfo in a duet with soprano Deborah Curtis' Mimi in "Dunque proprio finita" from "La Boheme." However, in "Kuda, kuda, kud vi udalis" from Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," Dillner seemed uncomfortable with the Russian language, sounding as if he'd learned the aria phonetically.

Curtis was spectacular in the Puccini arias, pulling out all the stops as she delivered a compelling "Sola perduta, abbandonata" from "Manon Lescaut" and a dramatic "Ebben? Ne Andro lontana" from "La Wally" and was a consummate Mimi. Curtis' ability to summon so much emotion is amazing.

This concert of arias represents another peak in a year distinguished by new heights in singing. Next on the schedule for Annapolis Opera is a free concert at Quiet Waters Park on June 17.

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