Sunday, July 27, 2014

Schwabacher Summer Concert

Shirin Eskandani (Mignon) and Anthony Reed (Lothario).
Photography by Kristen Loken.
Last week I heard the indoor version of the Schwabacher Summer Concert at Everett Middle School. It was a showcase for 10 of this summer's Merola Artists, who performed semi-staged scenes from 7 operas with a full orchestra behind them. All the singers gave outgoing, high-energy performances. Director Roy Rallo provided them with stage business for every moment. Props included a chair, a zither, an empty picture frame & a pair of velvet ropes with stanchions.

I liked the varied & dusky colors of mezzo Shirin Eskandani's voice. She was a melancholy Mignon & a contrastingly bright Rosina. Soprano Maria Fasciano sustained a high level of drama as Cio-Cio San in an excerpt from the end of act 2 of Madama Butterfly. Her voice is big & has a slight metallic sound. Sorrow was portrayed by a small, patient child who never showed the least sign of fidgeting.

Chong Wang (Don José)
and Nian Wang (Carmen).
Photography by Kristen Loken.
Soprano Talya Lieberman portrayed a very silly Semele in scenes from the Handel opera. She got a laugh just by the way she slumped in a chair. Her voice is high & warbling, & she flirtatiously showed off a seemingly effortless coloratura. The audience gave her a cheering ovation. Tenor Mingjie Lei, with his smooth, mellow voice, was a rueful Jupiter.

Mezzo Nian Wang had quite a few assignments, ending with the last scene of Carmen. She is an emphatic singer & was a disdainful & sneering Carmen. Tenor Chong Wang was her Don José, & his clear, taut high notes conveyed ardency. Carmen's friends wore glittery dresses that made them look more like Rheinmaidens than gypsies.

Baritone Alexander Elliott sounded solid & was perfectly cast in 2 comedic Rossini roles. He has the perky charisma of a musical theater performer & moves with the springiness of a dancer. Bass-baritone Matthew Stump's voice sounded appropriately mature & weighty for his characters. In a duet from La Cenerentola, he did a brave job singing lying on his side while Mr. Elliott sat on top of him.

Anthony Reed cuts a tall & attractive figure, & he has a surprising bass voice that is beaming & resonant. In a scene from Thomas's Mignon, he was a pensive Lothario & wore his jacket over his bare torso. I was completely unfamiliar with the opera, which seems to deal with a 19th century version of human trafficking. Eric Melear was a stable conductor, & there was fine playing from the trumpet & flute. The opera-savvy audience was enthused & supportive, & many gave the performers a standing ovation.

§ Schwabacher Summer Concert 2014
Merola Opera Program
Conducted by Eric Melear
Directed by Roy Rallo

Mignon (Ambroise Thomas)
From Act I, Scene 4
Wilhelm:  Mingjie Lei
Mignon: Shirin Eskandani
Jarno: Matthew Stump
Lothario: Anthony Reed

Semele (George Frideric Handel)
From Act III: Scenes 3-5
Juno: Nian Wang
Semele: Talya Lieberman
Jupiter: Mingjie Lei

Luisa Miller (Giuseppe Verdi)
From Act II
Count Walter: Matthew Stump
Wurm: Anthony Reed
Federica: Nian Wang
Luisa Miller: Maria Fasciano

Il barbiere di Siviglia (Gioachino Rossini)
From Act I: Scene 9
Figaro: Alexander Elliott
Rosina: Shirin Eskandani

Madama Butterfly (Giacomo Puccini)
From Act II
Goro: Chong Wang
Cio-Cio San: Maria Fasciano
Sharpless: Gideon Dabi
Prince Yamadori: Alexander Elliott
Suzuki: Nian Wang

La Cenerentola (Gioachino Rossini)
From Act II
Dandini: Alexander Elliott
Don Magnifico: Matthew Stump

Carmen (George Bizet)
From Act IV
Frasquita: Talya Lieberman
Mercédès: Shirin Eskandani
Don José: Chong Wang
Carmen: Nian Wang
Chorus: Tutti

Thursday, July 17, 7:30 pm
Everett Middle School Auditorium

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