The first part of the program was devoted to the works of Richard Wagner, works we all know and love. Wagner is notoriously difficult to sing and the performances came across as rather mixed. Soprano Maria Russo tackled Brünnhilde's "Hojotojo!" with a great deal of gusto and volume and tenor Caleb Stokes performed "Winterstürme wichen dem wonnemond", one of our favorite Wagnerian arias. Jennifer Behnke performed "Der Engel" from Wesendonck Lieder. Soprano Elizabeth Beers Kataria was convincing as Senta in "Traft ihr das schiff im meere an" from Die Fliegende Holländer but did not seem to have much connection with bass Steven Fredericks in their duet "Wie aus die Ferne"
Caleb Stokes reappeared as Parsifal in "Nur eine waffe taugt" and Ms. Russo returned for Isolde's "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde in which she failed to float her line successfully over the piano. The best part of the Wagner program was the ensemble from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in which the voices blended and balanced well; the aforementioned singers were joined by Monica Hershenson Thuris and Shawn Thuris.
One would never call Verdi easy to sing but the singers in Part II, which was devoted to his works, managed considerably better. Baritone Robert Kerr made a fine Falstaff in the eponymous opera, singing a rather touching "Va! Vecchio John". In "Reverenza", mezzo Leonarda Priore herself was quite amusing, enjoying her role as Mistress Quickly to the fullest, while tenor Jonathan Morales took the role of Bardolfo. Mr. Kerr reappeared later in "Per me, giunto...O Carlo, ascolta!" from Don Carlo and impressed us with his Verdian legato and dramatic commitment.
We greatly enjoyed soprano Regina Grimaldi whose generous and expressive voice animated "Ernani, Ernani, involami" from Ernani. She has a lovely vibrato and needs only a bit more support in her lower register. She also did a fine job with "Morró, ma prima in grazia" from Un Ballo in Maschera.
Mr. Morales reappeared as the Duke in Rigoletto. The audience enjoyed his "Questa o quella". Tenor David Kellett performed "Madre, non dormi?" as Manrico with the part of Azucena being taken by Ms. Priore. Mr. Kellett reappeared later as Macduff from Macbeth in the deeply felt aria "O figli, figli miei". To close the evening, the entire company sang the moving "Va pensiero" from Nabucco. Accompanying the singers throughout the evening was Steven M. Crawford.
(c) meche kroop