Delicious operatic arias

Triumph: Ronald Gretz found a stand-in soprano who helped save the show.

Arundel Live

February 14, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Opera folks know how to turn a fund-raiser into fun. Their annual Pasta, Puccini and Verdi Too dinner concerts grow larger and more entertaining each year.

More than 400 people paid $50 to attend performances Friday and Sunday at the Sheraton Barcelo Hotel Annapolis. Ninety more attended a performance Saturday at the Old South Country Club in Lothian, the first time in the four-year history of the event that a show was staged in South County. The event is expected to raise about $10,000 for the nonprofit opera.

On all three evenings a sumptuous three-course dinner with wine was followed by an even more delicious concert of operatic arias presented by Annapolis Opera's artistic director, Ronald J. Gretz.

Initially Gretz had planned a program to feature tenors Scott Priest and Israel Lozano with sopranos Deborah Curtis and Tamara Wapinsky. Shortly before the event, Priest and Curtis became ill, forcing Gretz to conduct an 11th-hour search for a replacement tenor and soprano.

Failing to find a tenor, Gretz focused on the vocal competition he'd judged the week before and found that soprano Amanda Gosier, the judges' second choice and the audience's favorite, might be available.

With Gosier's help, Gretz not only saved the evening, but turned it into a triumph with some of the best singing heard at any of the Pasta and Puccini dinner-concerts. And he delivered this musical triumph with distinctive wit and charm to the delight of opera aficionados and neophytes alike.

Making herself available on short notice for all three evenings, Gosier proved to be a genuine trouper.

"I was thrilled to be a part of this event, and happy to sing for Annapolis Opera," said Gosier, a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. "I live in Silver Spring, and it's great for me to perform in this area."

Adding much to the evening with her elegant, expressive singing and gorgeous voice, the 25-year-old lyric soprano proved why she captured the silver medal in the Rosa Ponselle All-Maryland competition in 1995, was international finalist in that 1998 competition, and the same year a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions.

Gosier sang a sublime "O Quante Volte" from Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi and a touching "Ne andro lontana" from Catalani's La Wally. She followed with a ravishing trio of Puccini selections: a "Musetta's Waltz" that was a study of subtle flirtatiousness, then Mimi's poignant farewell, "Donde lieta," with every word given perfect nuance, and a sublime "O Mio Babino Caro" that would melt any father's heart.

Also appearing on this Annapolis Opera program for the first time was Tamara Wapinsky, a Peabody graduate student. She opened the program in a duet with Israel Lozano, singing everyone's favorite drinking song, "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata. From the same opera Wapinsky offered her heart-felt version of Violetta's reluctant "Addio, dei passato," expressing her lost hope of ever seeing her lover Alfredo again.

In Manon Lescaut's "In quelle trine morbide" this exciting soprano revealed a voice of compelling power with an ability to convey high drama. My only criticism is that her voice seemed a bit heavy for Liu's "Signore, ascolta" from Puccini's Turandot.

Lozano grows better with each hearing. He proved in "Questa o quella" from Verdi's Rigoletto that he can sing as light and graceful a "Duke of Mantua" as anyone would wish for. From Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, this winner of the Voice of the Future Prize in Logrono added a warm Neopolitan coloring that enchanted everyone.

With his brilliant tone, Lozano proved to be that rare tenor who has the prized "squillo" in his thrilling "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot, which brought the evening to a fabulous conclusion.

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