|The cast of Bel Canto Gems|
Scott Foreman-Orr established Clef Note Productions to offer talented singers a chance to be heard in themed concerts which would showcase their voices. Last night's theme was Bel Canto Gems and we were delighted since that is our very favorite period of opera. The definition of bel canto was somewhat stretched but there is no denying that we heard some beautiful singing. The program included something for everyone.
Two singers made a huge impression--one known to us and one new to us, which is usually the case. Soprano Zhanna Alkhazova is a singer to look up to, literally and figuratively. Her imposing appearance is matched by a powerful voice giving her a great deal of onstage presence. She blew us away with her intensity in Elettra's aria from Mozart's Idomeneo in which she handled the ornamentation with style. Even better was her "Tacea la notte placida" from Verdi's Il Trovatore. She was one of the few singers who prepared her arias well and sang off the book.
New to us was mezzo Hayden Dewitt who sang everything with grace and subtlety. She too was excellently prepared; singing without a music stand always permits greater connection with the audience. From Rossini's Otello she sang the Willow Song "Assisa pie d'un salice" filled with distracted grief.
She also sang in French--the part of Isolier in the trio from Rossini's Le Comte Ory and, more impressively, the part of Mallika to Julia Lima's Lakme from the Delibes opera of the same name. The harmonies were exquisite. Still better was her ardent Romeo in Bellini's I Capuletti e i Montecchi.
Her Giulietta for "Si fuggire" was the lovely soprano Sarah Moulton Faux who beautifully handled the trills and scale passages. The harmony in thirds was glorious to the ear. There is nothing faux about Ms. Faux. She is the real thing and was just as winning as Amina in "Son geloso" from Bellini's La Sonnambula. Her Elvino was the tenor Jon Thomas Olson who has a sweet youthful sound.
We enjoyed hearing soprano Rosa D'Imperio in several selections. As Mathilde in "Selva Opaca" from Rossini's William Tell, she exhibited a lovely resonance and floated her top notes effortlessly. Our only quibble was the use of the music stand. She has a real flair for Rossini and sang in the duet "Non arrestare il colpo" from the composer's Otello, although the role was written for a mezzo-soprano.
We would like to credit soprano Rachel Hippert for her fine handling of the descending scale passages and syncopated rhythms as Isabelle in Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable.
Julia Lima, so lovely in the Lakme has a lovely vibrato and was perky as Susanna in "Colle dame piu brillanti" from Mercadante's I Due Figaro. Singing off the book, she connected well with the audience. Soprano Roza Bulat made a fine Lucrezia in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia.
Space does not permit discussion of several of the other excellent singers but we are sure to have other opportunities in the future.
Accompanying was deftly handled by Ming Hay Kwong. It was a long evening although shortened by the illness of some of the singers. Happily, bel canto always leaves us wanting more.
(c) meche kroop