|Eric Barsness, Christopher Berg, Youtha Franklin, Erin Ring-Howell, Violetta Zabbi, Kathy Geary, Kevin Hanek, Margaret Meyer, Gail Bedi, Carol Diefenbach, and Tshombe Selby
Sunday afternoon in the fine concert hall of Opera America, the Delaware Valley Opera Company offered a program of opera arias and American song. For 29 years, DVO has been presenting opera and vocal recitals in the upper Delaware Valley of New York and Pennsylvania. Their mission is to offer performance opportunities for singers at every level of experience, age, and professionality.
This was an opportunity to hear singers we would not ordinarily get to hear and, in one case, to hear an aria we'd never heard before. The aria from Tchaikovsky's The Enchantress was called "Kuma's Arioso" and was sung by soprano Erin Ring-Howell. Although she has sung several times before in New York (as well as regionally) this was our first time hearing her; she has a lovely instrument to work with and did well conveying the love of nature expressed in the aria. Her Russian was pleasing to the ear.
She distinguished herself later in the program with "Tallulah's Aria" from Thomas Pasatieri's 2007 opera Hotel Casablanca. Given our lack of enthusiasm for contemporary opera, we were pleased to admit that we enjoyed it and would happily see the opera, given the opportunity. Her perfect English diction made every word clear.
Also impressive was soprano Margaret Meyer who sang Donna Anna's "Non mi dir" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Ms. Meyer is sufficiently comfortable onstage to express all those feelings that bring the aria to life. Not only was she adept in Italian but also in English, dioing a fine job with "What good would the moon be?" from Kurt Weill's Street Scene and "Mr. Snow" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.
A new young tenor on the scene is always good news and Tshombe Selby made an excellent impression \himself with Lensky's aria "Kuda, kuda" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. Along with superior tone, he showed a good command of Russian and of dynamic control with a delicate decrescendo at the end. But the final work on the program blew the audience away. "Ride on King Jesus" was given all the spiritual passion necessary to put the song across.
Besides these three promising newcomers, contributions were made by some veteran performers. Carol Diefenbach, one of the co-founders of DVO entertained with a spirited rendition of the Seguidilla from Bizet's Carmen, in an English translation, no less. Kevin Hanek sang "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from the same opera, this time in French. Kathy Geary sang "Io son l'umile ancella" from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur with depth of feeling. Youtha Franklin contributed "Voi lo sapete, o mamma" from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Gail Bedi sang "S'altro che lacrime" from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.
All were accompanied by the marvelous pianist Violetta Zabbi whom we have often heard and admired. But composer Christopher Berg accompanied bass Eric Barsness who sang a trio of Ives songs. The second half of the program comprised mostly American songs, many from Broadway. All singers can be heard at DVO when you are in the neighborhood.
(c) meche kroop