Young talent shines in vocal contest

Annapolis Opera offers singers with something to say artistically


February 07, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Annapolis Opera's 14th annual Vocal Competition on Sunday at Maryland Hall confirmed anew that the local company maintains a well-stocked pipeline of young talent.

Overall, vocal quality wasn't quite as deep as in years past, but most of the competition's nine finalists had things to say artistically, and the panel's selection of the top two finishers yielded no serious miscarriage of aesthetic justice.

Winning the grand prize of $1,600 was Kwang-Kyu Lee, a 30-year-old bass-baritone. Under the guidance of voice teacher Francois Loup, Lee is a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Lee's opening aria, "O tu Palermo" from Verdi's Vespri Siciliani, revealed a dark, powerful voice that should be perfect for the role of Commendatore, which he's scheduled to sing in next month's Annapolis Opera production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. His dramatic presentation may have been a bit unvaried for Verdi, but there was no denying the appeal of his voice.

Lee was more stylish in Figaro's indignant "Aprite un po quegl'occhi" from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. The word play of those wonderful coloratura passages was brought out with admirable dexterity and flair. Bravo!

The other find of the competition was Amanda Gosier of Silver Spring, who has been studying at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music in recent years. An expressive soprano who won a Metropolitan Opera Regional Audition at age 21, Gosier will spend this summer with St. Louis Opera Theater.

She wowed the audience with a pair of contrasting arias: Micaela's vulnerable yet steadfast "Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante" from Bizet's gut-wrenching Carmen and the showy, rapid-fire bel canto runs in "Bel raggio lusingheri" from Rossini's Semiramide.

In addition to the $1,200 second prize, Gosier won the approval of the large Maryland Hall audience, which voted her the most affecting singer of the group, earning her an additional $300.

Other contestants also provided memorable moments.

Tenor Chad Freeburg of Baltimore's Peabody Institute sprinted stylishly through the demanding coloratura of Rossini's "Ecco ridente" from The Barber of Seville.

Lyric soprano Susan Wheeler of Alexandria, Va., gave us lovely tone and charming stage presence in "Caro Nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto, and Amy Bonn showed marvelous control in a deeply felt rendition of "The Silver Aria" from Douglas Moore's home-spun American opera The Ballad of Baby Doe.

Mezzo soprano Lori Hultgren also was delightful in arias by Massenet and Johann Strauss.

As a previous winner of the competition and a star of last season's Annapolis Opera production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, it wasn't clear what she had left to prove on the Maryland Hall stage Sunday.

As always, there was uncommonly good playing from pianist Eileen Cornett, whose professional credits can now state that she was a Most Valuable Player on Super Bowl Sunday.

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