Opera preview program served cake, history, gifted voices and inspired acting

Matthew Maisano, Coraine Tate, Caroline Bergan and Daniel Fridley present a vocal bouquet at WWAC's FYI: Opera program on Oct. 5. Photo by Louise Seeholzer

Twenty-five years ago, David Bamberger presented the first FYI: Opera program sponsored by the Westlake-Westshore Arts Council and earlier this month he happily presided over a celebratory cake cutting, prior to narrating a program marking the beginning of FYI: Opera’s 26th year.               

Bamberger, who is the artistic director of the Cleveland Institute of Music Opera Theater, is a name synonymous with opera in Northeast Ohio. As founder and director of Cleveland Opera for 28 years, he and other music authorities have presented entertaining and informative FYI: Opera programs on upcoming productions around the area.

At the Oct. 5 program, the large audience appreciated the uniqueness of the event beginning with the delicious shared cake served with a brief and interesting history of FYI: Opera. (It began on Oct. 15, 1991, with Bamberger’s presentation on Cavalier Rusticana and LaTraviata.) 

But the highlight of the evening was served up by four talented voices, expertly accompanied on the piano by John Simmons, CIM music director. Like offering gifts of gold, incense and myrrh, the CIM voice students sang and portrayed arias from Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro" with a fervor that completely captivated their audience. 

After Bamberger’s informed and witty outline of the opera’s story and the time period it reflects, Daniel Fridley opened the vocal feast with a first act aria by Figaro, Count Almaviva’s valet. Fridley framed his expressive voice with convincing facial and body gestures.

Soprano Coraine Tate gave a heartfelt rendering of the Countess Rosina Almaviva’s aria revealing her disillusionment with “the joys of love”  The aria by the Count, sung by Matthew Maisano, is a soliloquy of sorts about his concern of how he is viewed by his servants. An aria that Bamberger said has been labeled the “greatest psychological aria in opera.” Maisano conveyed well the deep emotion of the composer’s work.

Caroline Bergan beautifully sang an aria as Susanna, the Countess’s maid. She artfully expressed the multi-faceted situations Susanna faces. The mix of these four lovely voices in the opera’s last act quartet was the perfect climax to this excellent program.

After the appreciative applause, which broke the audience’s awed silence, a gentleman said, “No costumes are needed to get the (opera’s) messages across – their expressions and acting do it all.” Another person commented about the unique opportunity to see the singers up close to appreciate their acting ability, as well as their voices.

Louise Seeholzer

Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.20.2015