On Saturday evening October 29, 2016, Opera Las Vegas held a concert in a most elegant private home. After a glass of wine and some delicious hors d’oeuvres, members of the audience, most of whom were in costume, retreated to a salon that held some seventy chairs. With a grand piano in front and an “off stage” area to the side, the salon was as close to a concert hall as could be found in a private home. Artistic Director James Sohre, dressed as the Phantom of the Opera, introduced the artists and their selections, which began and ended with the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical theater work.
Artists from the Opera Las Vegas Young Artist Program were lyric soprano Emily Botts, dramatic soprano Karin Hochman, tenor Aldo Perelli, and baritone Michael Parham. Their collaborative pianist was Voltaire Verzosa. Since Verzosa also sings as a countertenor, he is a most sympathetic accompanist.
After the opening number from Broadway’s longest running musical, Botts emerged singing a radiant rendition of “Mesiku na nebi hlubokem” (“O moon, so high in the sky”) from Antonin Dvo?·k’s fairy tale opera Russalka. Aldo Berelli and Karin Hochman then sang two of the plaintive arias that Giacomo Puccini provided for the victims of Baron Vitellio Scarpia in his scorchingly dramatic opera Tosca. Berelli sang “E lucevan le stelle” (“the stars are shining”) and Hochman “Vissi d’arte” (“I have lived for art”). Perelli made his character’s life seem ever so much more important because he knew he had so little time left, whereas Hochman added great drama to the contrast between her life in the arts and Scarpia’s devilish machinations.
Then it was time for a bit of comic relief and baritone Michael Parham provided it with his light-hearted and charming impersonation of Papageno, the happy-go-lucky bird catcher in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Although his intonation was not always perfect, his charisma made up for it. Botts returned with an evocative performance of Liu’s tragic aria from Puccini’s Turandot, “Tu che di gel sei cinta” (“You who are wrapped in ice”).
Hochman’s next selection was the rousing drinking song, “Si, colme il calice di vino eletto” (“Lift the cup with your favorite wine”) from Giuseppe Verdi’s first Shakespearean opera, Macbeth. Unlike this composer’s later works, Macbeth demands coloratura as well as dramatic stamina from the soprano. Perelli had an easier time with the lyric aria, “Ah, la paterna mano non vi fu scudo” (“Ah, the paternal hand did not defend you”).
Parham’s dramatic selection was a scene from Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet. The title character calls out to the ghost of his father in “Spectre infernal” (“Spectre from the underworld”). In Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, Monica sings of the sun, the moon, and a black swan. “The sun has fallen and it lies in blood”. She goes on to speak of the moon weaving bandage of gold. Botts sang this emotionally engaging but little known aria with a delightful tapestry of vocal color.
Hochman showed her dramatic vocal ability when she sang one of Amelia’s arias from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. Amelia has been told she must pick an herb from the ground under the gallows, and she sings, “Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa” (“But when that leaf has been torn from its dry stem”). This kind of drama is Hochman’s “meat” and she sang it with relish and great strength, both vocal and emotional. I have great hopes for the future of this young singer from Israel.
Parham returned with a number from Frank Wildhorn’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the charming invocation of time, “This is the Moment.” It was the moment when, with the return to The music of The Phantom of the Opera, this memorable evening came to an end. Let’s hope Opera Las Vegas has another Halloween concert next year. I can think of a number of fitting selections for it that have not often been heard.
Cast and production information:
Cast and Selections:
Emily Botts: Hymn to the Moon, Russalka; Liu’s Aria, Turandot; “The Sun is Fallen”, The Medium. Aldo Perelli: “E lucevan le stelle”, Tosca; MacDuff’s Aria, Macbeth; “Music of the Night”, The Phantom of the Opera; Karin Hochman: “Vissi d’arte”, Tosca; Drinking Song, Macbeth; “Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa”, Un Ballo in Maschera; Michael Parham: “Der Vogelf‰nger bin ich, ja”, The Magic Flute; Spectre infernal, Hamlet; “This is the Moment”, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. All sang a finale from The Phantom of the Opera.
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