FYI: Opera, a gift to its audience

Nayoung Yeo, London Long-Wheeler, Kaylee Norris and Benjamin Liu end FYI: Opera with “The Drinking Song.” Photo by Louise Seeholzer

The ageless music of five renowned composers was beautifully performed by four gifted singers to an appreciative audience on April 3 at Westlake Porter Public Library. The event marks the 27th year that the Westlake-Westshore Arts Council has sponsored FYI: Opera, an invaluable gift, offered free to the community.

From Bizet to Bernstein, with Donizetti, Mozart and Verdi mixed in, David Bamberger, Opera Artistic Director at Cleveland Institute of Music, offered introductions and interesting asides for each of the CIM voice students and their selections.

Kaylee Norris enhanced her lovely soprano voice with cunning actions to interpret an aria from Mozart’s "Cosi Fan Tutte," suggesting women should have the ability to wrap men around their finger.  Following his beautiful rendition of Donizetti’s popular tenor aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” Benjamin Liu acknowledged the expert piano accompaniment of John Simmons, CIM’s coach-accompanist.

Soprano Nayoung Yeo beautifully sung an aria from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.” Her high notes were clear and lovely. When London Long-Wheeler took the spotlight to sing the “Habanera” she left no doubt she was the provocative “Carmen” from Bizet’s opera. Her sultry mezzo-soprano voice was framed with proper visuals in costume and actions.

In introducing a selection from “The Pearl Fishers,” which Bizet wrote when he was not yet 25, Bamberger noted that because “Carmen” achieved great popularity, many think it is the only opera Bizet wrote. But when Liu performed the melodious tenor piece, it filled the room with warmth and beauty and Simmons' piano accompaniment was perfect icing on the cake.

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, Bamberger included a selection from Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti.” The rousing, fun song called “What a Movie” was done by Long-Wheeler. She put all the needed energy and her mezzo-soprano voice into a rousing performance of the character named Dinah.

When it might have been thought nothing could match the earlier performances, the program ended with all four voices taking part in “The Drinking Song” from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” which gained even more vigorous applause from the appreciative audience.

The only bittersweet note to this FYI: Opera program was the knowledge that David Bamberger will be re-locating to California. His greatly appreciated, longtime association and support for FYI: Opera will be missed.

Louise Seeholzer

Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 9:50 AM, 04.17.2018