THREE GOLDS FOR SCO’S AUGUST TRILOGY
By: Hal de Becker
Last weekend at Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center, Sin City Opera concluded its three part ‘Opera in August’ presentations. It was received with the same enthusiastic appreciation the two prior performances enjoyed.
The production was devoted to vocal music composed in the 19th and 20th centuries based upon various literary sources, including J.M. Barrie, Henri Murger, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Sir Walter Scott and Voltaire.
I missed any entries from Verdi and Shakespeare (Otello, Macbeth, etc.), but two less celebrated works, one by Hollywood film composer and Academy Award winner Bernard Herrmann and the other by Broadway Tony Award winner Paul Gordon, were welcome ‘discoveries’.
The first half of the program was devoted to the talents of seven individual singers, the second to an original chamber opera, How Clear She Shines! There were gems in each.
Isabella Ivy, an accomplished coloratura, delivered compelling renditions of two arias from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Especially impressive was the Act III mad scene in which she surmounted the vocal and dramatic challenges as well as the stratospheric high notes.
The sensitive ‘I Have Dreamt’ from Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights was performed by talented Stephanie Sadownik whose smooth legato, tastefully nuanced drama and clear diction resulted in a moving characterization. She also performed two duets, one with SCO’s artistic director Skip Galla, from Gordon’s Jane Eyre.
The petite but formidable Linda Lister sang several songs associated with fairy tales. Her
voice was small but pleasing and expressive and radiated exceptional charm. More importantly, she used it intelligently. Her gown was abbreviated in front and I can’t resist commenting on a pair of legs that even Pavlova or Dietrich might have envied.
Brooke Bunker performed two solos, one from Bernstein’s Candide, the other from Jane Eyre and, from the same work, a duet with Ms. Sadownik.
Vocally and visually Ms. Brooke’s performances were polished and vivid. Her interpretations were infused with spontaneity and her singing with tonal purity and a captivating freshness. Her acting ranged effortlessly from dramatic to humorous, even the eccentric as in Candide, and she moved like a dancer. She is a gifted multi-talented artist.
Athena Mertes performed nicely in two songs from Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan. She was followed by Casey Gardner as Musetta in the flirtatious aria Quando me’n vo from Puccini’s La Boheme; her acting was more secure than her singing.
How Clear She Shines! is an original work created by Linda Lister. It was directed by Mr. Galla. A unique tribute to the Bronte sisters, Emily, Ann and Charlotte, it employed as its libretto the sisters’ own words. The exquisitely intimate work was mostly sung but had sections spoken by Charlotte.
The score’s crisp musical figures and flowing, sometimes somber, melodies were emotionally descriptive. It is an extremely accessible work, modern in the sense that it’s contemporary, but not harshly dissonant or minimalistic.
In her impressive portrayal as Charlotte, Ms. Sadownik imbued every word, spoken and sung, with meaning. Ms. Lister was equally effective as another sister; the printed program didn’t clarify which one. A third sister was portrayed by Ms. Mertes who, in the interest of collaboration, would do well to control her volume when singing with others.
How Clear She Shines has already been produced by several other companies and is likely to soon be in the repertoire of many more.
Throughout the program the singers received excellent support from Dean Balan at the keyboard.
A sour note: In utter disregard for the singers, a party that included two restless noisy toddlers sat front row center. To the artists’ credit, they didn’t allow the disturbance to diminish the quality of their performances.
SCO’s willingness to present innovative, less often performed contemporary operas is commendable. One such work is Dominick Argento’s surrealistic Postcard From Morocco which will be performed in November, in English, at Winchester Cultural Center. More info is available at sincityopera.com.