Music Review: Opera festival’s younger set looking good
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | June 11,2013
Jim Lowe / Staff Photo
Soprano Kelsey Boesche is the flamboyant Lady Billows in a scene from “Albert Herring” at the Green Mountain Opera Festival Emerging Artist Showcase on Sunday at Stowe’s Community Church.
STOWE — Green Mountain Opera Festival opened its series of concerts and operas under new direction Sunday at the Community Church, and it bodes well for the eighth year of the central Vermont regional professional opera company.
Sunday’s program, the GMOF Emerging Artist Showcase, also bodes well for the annual Emerging Artists production. This year, Benjamin Britten’s comic “Albert Herring” will be presented, staged with orchestra at 7:30 p.m. June 20 at Sugarbush Resort’s Gate House in Warren.
Not surprisingly, it was the excerpts of “Albert Herring” that were performed best among Sunday’s myriad arias, duets and ensembles. After all, the artists have been working on it daily for the past couple of weeks.
The truly funny opera tells of the wallflower Albert who gets a chance to blossom but does it in his own way. In a telling scene, “Have a nice peach,” the sexy Nancy (soprano Elyse Mendelson) is flirting with boyfriend Sid (baritone David Castillo), much to the consternation of the meek but jealous Albert (tenor Sergio GonzŠlez) in Albert’s mother’s shop.
Not only do the three have fine young voices — ideally suited for their parts — they were entirely convincing in this fun little scene. Mendelson’s lyrical soprano, Castillo’s strong baritone and GonzŠlez’s soft but beautiful tenor all contributed musically and theatrically.
In another fun scene, “Right, we’ll have him,” the village committee gets together to choose a May Queen, but since there aren’t any village maidens “innocent” enough, they opt for Albert as May King. The sextet was effectively and beautifully sung, musically and theatrically.
Another scene, “I’m full of happiness,” with all the villagers feting Albert, proved a vocal showcase as well as quite entertaining. Kelsey Boesche stood out as the flamboyant Lady Billows with her charismatic lyric soprano.
Another standout was soprano Alexandra Batsios for her tender but brilliant singing as Miss Wordsworth.
Brian Pettey proved a strong tenor as the emcee, Mr. Gedge. All were accompanied in the “Albert Herring” ensembles by Emma Smith, pianist for the Emerging Artists Program.
After founding Artistic Director Taras Kulish left Green Mountain Opera Festival at the end of last summer, the board of the Waitsfield-based company named as his replacement Bruce Stasyna, who had headed the Emerging Artists Program for five years. Stasyna was also the excellent pianist accompanying the non-“Albert Herring” parts of Sunday’s program.
This year’s emerging artists are the most consistently excellent vocally and theatrically to date. But, nearly all betrayed their youth by overusing their voices in their solo arias and even some of the ensembles, diminishing the musical message. It was almost as if they were saying, “Hey, listen to my beautiful big voice.”
One notable exception was the duet from “Don Giovanni,” “La ci darem la mano,” where the Don begins his seduction of Zerlina. Baritone Castillo achieved a warm lyricism, while soprano Shantelle Przybylo delivered a charming innocence. Another outstanding moment was soprano Batsios’ most expressive performance of “Regnava nel silenzio” from Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
Mezzo-soprano Kim Hoff offered a beautifully seductive, if not terribly nuanced, performance of “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” from Bizet’s “Carmen.” Soprano Olivia Betzen’s performance of “What good would the moon be?” from Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” proved most expressive.
Still, the most nuanced and professional performance came from the only non-emerging artist.
Veteran Jeffrey Beruan, who will sing Superintendent Budd in “Albert Herring,” managed his stentorian basso with finesse as Leporello in “Sola sola in buio loca.”
He was able to let loose in a gorgeous and impressive performance of “Old Man River” from Jerome Kern’s “Showboat” — the crowd pleaser of the afternoon.
GREEN MOUNTAIN OPERA FESTIVAL
n Today: Master class with Antony Walker, Washington Concert Opera, free, Sugarbush Resort, The Schoolhouse, Warren, 2 to 4:45 p.m.
n Wednesday, June 12: Open rehearsal of “Don Giovanni,” free, Sugarbush Resort, The Schoolhouse, Warren, 7 p.m.
n Friday, June 14: Gala Concert, $50, $20 for students, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, 7:30 p.m.
n Sunday, June 16: Opera Brunch, $25, Sugarbush Resort, Timbers Restaurant, Warren, 11 a.m.
n Thursday, June 20: Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring,” $35, Sugarbush Resort, Gate House, Warren, 7:30 p.m.
n Friday, June 21: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” $25-$70, Barre Opera House, 7:30 p.m.
n Sunday, June 23: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” $25-$70, Barre Opera House, 3 p.m.
For tickets or information, go online to www.greenmountainoperafestival.com.