Holiday tradition hits the right notes

`Mozart by Candlelight' concert showcases talented singers and a selection of arias


December 08, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

Founded at the Charles Carroll House in 1993, Annapolis Opera's holiday tradition, Mozart by Candlelight has grown lovelier since moving to the historic First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis in 2003.

The candlelit setting and acoustics of the church, built as a theater in 1828, make it an ideal location for the concert.

For the near-capacity audience of 390 on Sunday, there seemed a glow marking the end of the worldwide 250th birthday celebrations of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Ronald J. Gretz, the Annapolis Opera's artistic and music director, reminded everyone of Mozart's legacy, noting that only three of the evening's selections had been heard in past Mozart concerts he'd arranged.

His choices once again showcased talented young singers in a selection of arias and ensembles from Mozart operas.

Soprano Ashleigh Rabbitt, who played Ida in Annapolis Opera's 2002 production of Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, again displayed a voice of compelling beauty and agility, first in the duet "Via resti servita" from Le Nozze di Figaro and later in such arias as "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" from Don Giovanni and "Smanie implacabili" from Cosi fan tutte.

Mezzo-soprano Michelle Rice offered a lovely, moving "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata" from Don Giovanni.

She created a memorable Suzuki in Annapolis Opera's 2005 Madama Butterfly, and will return to Annapolis in March to sing Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Making his first appearance with Annapolis Opera, bass-baritone Nimrod Weisbrod, who was born in Germany, raised in Israel and came to study at Peabody before being invited to sing in Orlando Opera's Resident Artist Program this year, offered a delightful "Donne mie, la fate a tanti" from Cosi fan tutte and an amusing rendition of "Papageno's suicide scene" from Die Zauberflote.

In addition to providing excellent entertainment, Annapolis Opera's annual Mozart concerts often introduce us to future stars. We met such a future diva in soprano Kenneithia Mitchell, who has recently been touring the Baltimore-Washington area in recital concerts.

Her "Dove sono" from La Nozze di Figaro had softly-nuanced feeling and spectacular agility.

Most notably Mitchell delivered breathtaking versions of "Or sai chi l'onore" from Don Giovanni and "L'amero saro costante" from the rarely performed Il re pastore.

After the concert, audience members were invited to a reception to meet the artists.

Scheduled next is a performance on New Year's Eve as part of First Night Annapolis.

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