Powerful performance enthralls audience, earns enthusiastic response

Renee Richardson and Benjamin Lui from Berlioz’s "Beatrice and Benedict" go to extremes to convince each other they are not in love. Photo by Louise Seeholzer

The power of beauty, exemplified by four talented voice students from the Cleveland Institute of Music, captivated a large audience when they performed at the FYI: Opera program on March 29 at Westlake Porter Public Library. The beautiful voices were expertly accompanied on the piano by John Simmons, music director of CIM’s “Sensational Scenes,” its upcoming production which the FYI program previewed.

CIM Opera Artistic Director David Bamberger narrated the program, which was presented with skill and an ownership of the music and its interpretation. Bamberger expertly weaves opera themes with composer lore, creating the setting as he introduces each artist and the aria to be performed. Caroline Bergan, who opened the program with an aria from Handel’s "Alcina" lived up to Bamberger’s description of a young woman on an island intent on finding and keeping male company. Bergan’s lovely voice and demeanor were excellent.

Benjamin Lui kept the bar high as he sang the moving aria "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from Donizetti’s "The Elixir of Love." Matthew Maisano joined Bergan in a duet from Massenet’s "Manon." The duet depicts the meeting of a young girl excited at arriving in the big city and Lescaut, her cousin, who assumes family responsibility and lectures her about proper behavior. As Bamberger predicts, this advice is given in vain, but the performance of the duet was an unqualified winner.

Renee Richardson sang an aria from one of Puccini’s early works. Introducing it, Bamberger said it was an early demonstration of Puccini’s talent for writing arias for sopranos in distress. Richardson’s rendition of "A te" clearly revealed her ability to interpret Puccini with power and beauty.

Maisano gave a forceful rendition of Count Almaviva’s aria from Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro." The program concluded with a duet by Richardson and Lui from Berlioz’s "Beatrice and Benedict." They convincingly portrayed a couple who are in love but go to extremes to hide it from each other.

However, the power of beautiful voices close up was not hidden from the enthusiastic audience who readily showed their appreciation for the exceptional program and its presenters. The Westlake-Westshore Arts Council has presented FYI: Opera programs to the community for 25 years without charge.

Louise Seeholzer

Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 8, Issue 7, Posted 10:07 AM, 04.05.2016