Catching best of 2 programs of artful singing

Music Review

December 11, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Fans of artful singing had a choice of two programs Sunday afternoon in Annapolis: the Arundel Vocal Arts Society's "Mass Appeal" holiday concert at Eastport United Methodist Church and the Annapolis Opera's "Bel Canto by Candlelight" an hour later at First Presbyterian Church. I enjoyed the best of both by hearing the major work on the AVAS program, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, before catching Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini arias sung by five gifted young soloists making their debut in Annapolis.

Haydn's Missa in Angustiis, popularly known as Lord Nelson Mass, was perhaps the Arundel Vocal Arts Society's most ambitious undertaking to date, and Sunday's performance ranks near its finest.

In her second season as AVAS music director JoAnn Kulesza continues to bring the 50-member chorus to greater musical heights. From the opening notes of the Kyrie, musicians and chorus conveyed a darkly dramatic vision.

In contrast, the Gloria section that followed was one of lovely melodic praise. Soprano Keesun Kwan soared beautifully above the chorus.

Throughout the work, Kulesza maintained excellent balance between orchestra and chorus, which was never overpowered by the musicians. Soloists - mezzo soprano Yoonjee Ha, tenor Peter Wen-Chih Lee and bass-baritone Peter Tomaszewski - delivered the expansive beautiful singing required.

Sections of compelling choral beauty included the melodic Credo and the sublime Sanctus. The work concluded with an a cappella Agnus Dei sung by the chorus before everyone joined in the final, joyous Dona Nobis.

Annapolis Opera's "Bel Canto" concert marked a change from past "Mozart by Candlelight" concerts. Music director Ronald J. Gretz broadened the program to composers who typify the bel canto (beautiful singing) style.

Annapolis Opera again enhanced its reputation for showcasing the talents of young singers with five selected by Gretz and never before heard in our area.

Maria Alu possesses a soprano voice of great clarity and beauty. She used superb technique to reach high notes with ease in "Chacun le sait" from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment (Daughter of the Regiment) and displayed her dramatic gifts in the aria "Oh! Quante volte" from Bellini's I Capuletti ed I Montecchi.

Baritone Dan Collins opened the program masterfully with a rapid-fire delivery of Figaro's aria "Largo al factotum," and later delivered a heartfelt "Come Parigi vezzoso" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. A skilled actor who possesses a comic flair, Collins joined tenor Nathan Carlisle in a delightful "All'idea di quell metallo."

Nathan M. Carlisle summoned the required passion of the love-sick bumpkin Nemorino with "Quanto e bella!" from L'Elisir d'Amore. From the same opera, Carlisle offered a lovely duet with soprano Yeonjune Suh.

Suh displayed a clear and agile voice in the L'Elisir d'Amore aria "Prendi per me sei libero." Later she sang a lovely duet from the same opera with Carlisle, followed by an astonishing "Quel guardo il cavaliere" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale. Her voice soared to high notes that she held with ease.

Tenor Colin D. Eaton II captured hearts first with his beautiful "Una furtive lagrima" from L'Elisir d'Amore. Later, in Donizetti's challenging "Ah! Mes amis" from Daughter of the Regiment, Eaton reached all 11 of the required high C's that helped to make Pavarotti famous. Eaton later displayed strong acting skills in "Fra poco a me recovero" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and again in the Daughter of the Regiment trio with Collins and Alu.

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