|Jonathan Heaney, Jessica Harika, Patrick McNally, Megan Gillis, Kathleen Spencer, and Eamon Pereyra
This month is International Women's Month and we just celebrated the success of an opera company founded by two wonderful women--soprano Megan Gillis and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Spencer. This perfectly affirms our belief that if you don't see what you want-- then create it.
Their creation is ARE opera. The letters stand for Accessible, Relatable, and Enjoyable. In just one year, ARE has created major successes about which you can read by entering their names in the search bar. Our personal favorite was Cenerentola. These two lovely ladies have a knack for finding wonderful talent and creating onstage magic.
Last night's recital at the Steinway showroom introduced us to a new singer and a few we've reviewed before, all of whom brought new life to old material, and gave us the opportunity to hear Ms. Gillis and Ms. Spencer as well. Ms. Spencer opened the program as a lively Carmen and Ms. Gillis gave us a Susannah from the eponymous Carlisle Floyd opera singing "Ain't It a Pretty Night" with such good English diction that we caught every word.
Tenor Eamon Pereyra, who did so well as Rinuccio in ARE's Gianni Schicchi, knows just how to build a song; he began "Maria", from Bernstein's West Side Story, very quietly and built to a dramatically effective climax. His personality shone and he made good use of vocal coloration to create a believable Tony who has just fallen in mad adolescent love. When he sang "The most beautiful sound" we were thinking "that's just what we are listening to...the most beautiful sound".
We got to hear another solo from Mr. Pereyra--"No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozábal's La taberna del puerto. One very lovely aspect of this recital was that each singer addressed the audience, telling something about their song. Mr. Pereyra mentioned that this was his favorite song and that comes as no surprise. He was totally immersed and so were we.
Baritone Patrick McNally performed the soliloquy from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel and did so with such fine voice and dramatic intent that we felt that we understood for the first time what a prospective father goes through. This performance reaffirmed our belief that American musical theater is really the opera of 20th c. America and needs to be performed by trained operatic voices without amplification. Only then can we see the connection with its operatic origins.
We got more Carousel when Ms. Gillis an Mr. McNally sang the fine duet "If I Loved You". Mr. McNally paired with mezzo-soprano Jessica Harika for the charming duet "Dunque io son" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. We always get a laugh seeing how Rosina's cleverness exceeds that of Figaro. We particularly enjoyed the cabaletta with the two voices playing against one another. Again, the acting was as fine as the singing.
Ms. Harika impressed with her performance of "What a Movie!" from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, an opera that never had much interest for us. We believe Ms. Harika changed our mind with her riveting and expressive performance. She created quite a character!
Readers know how much we love duets and we heard two more worth mentioning. Ms. Gillis and Ms. Spencer performed "Prendero quel brunettino" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. We have never seen two singers looking more believable as sisters! It swept us right into the plot. Their voices blended beautifully.
And finally, there was the highly romantic duet from Act I of Puccini's La Bohême--"O soave fanciulla" with Mr. Pereyra as Rodolfo and Ms. Gillis as Mimi. They walked offstage arm in arm, lost in the throes of love at first sight.
We left in the throes of artistic delight. What a satisfying recital, drawing no distinction between vocal genres, treating every song with respect, making everything accessible, relatable and enjoyable for the audience.
At the piano, doing a superb job accompanying all those varied styles, was Music Director Jonathan Heaney, who is also an excellent conductor.
You too can enjoy this yearling company's next production. Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore is an opera that lives up to ARE's mission and is a real crowd pleaser. May 18. 19, and 20 are the dates to save.
(c) meche kroop