Two melodic courses served to FYI: Opera audience

From left, John Simmons, CIM music director; Xiaoyang Zhang, baritone; Carmen Michael LoPresti, tenor; Jennifer Robble, soprano; Merav Eldan, mezzo-soprano; Renée Richardson, soprano; David Bamberger, CIM Opera artistic director. Photo by Louise Seeholzer

The expectations of regular FYI: Opera attendees are consistently met and exceeded by the expertise and depth of talent showcased by the Cleveland Institute of Music. But a double serving of lyrical dessert was served to the audience at Westlake Porter Public Library when the Westlake Westshore Arts Council presented its Oct. 4 program.

CIM Opera artistic director David Bamberger announced the first half of the program would be a “Song Fest of Favorites” followed by a preview of the CIM’s upcoming production of two one-act operas.

The audience was quickly captivated by the commanding performances of the “Song Fest,” which included four arias from four of opera’s greatest hits. Merav Eldan, mezzo-soprano, sang Stephano’s aria from Gounod’s "Romeo and Juliet"; Soprano Renée Richardson brought Puccini’s "Turandot" to life; Jennifer Robble, soprano, sang the aria of Oscar, the page from the Verdi’s "A Masked Ball"; and Xiaoyang Zhang, baritone, ended the Song Fest with an aria from Donizetti’s "Don Pasquale," a perfect antidote to tragic opera. The fifth voice, Carmen Michael LoPresti, a tenor, sang a 1932 composition by American composer Earnest Charles titled "My Lady Walks in Loveliness."

The preview of the upcoming CIM performance of "Suor Angelica" (“Sister Angelica”) by Giacomo Puccini and "Amelia Al Ballo" ("Amelia Goes to the Ball") by Gian Carlo Menotti was a nourishing main course served up by these remarkable voices. Eldan sang the aria of the aunt from "Suor Angelica" and Richardson sang Angelica’s emotional “Senza mamma." The beauty and emotions of Puccini’s music were skillfully interpreted and were palpable to the audience.

"Amelia," a one-act comic opera, was Menotti’s first successful opera. Arias portraying Amelia’s husband and lover were sung by LoPresti and Zhang. Robble ended the program with an aria by Amelia conveying an attitude of all ends well as long as she gets to go to the ball. Talented, trained voices are able to transport an audience from tears to laughter.

John Simmons, CIM music director, accompanied the singers on the piano with an expertise that allowed them to perform with confidence, concentrating on their voice.  Bamberger’s informed introductions clearly set each vocal scene. The CIM voice students reflect an international mix that music itself embodies: Eldan is from Israel; Robble from upstate New York; Richardson, who identifies herself as Haitian-American, now lives in Florida; LoPresti is from Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania; and Zhang is from China.

FYI: Opera series is offered without charget o the public by the WWAC, which has sponsored the programs for 25 years.

Louise Seeholzer

Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 8, Issue 20, Posted 10:25 AM, 10.18.2016