Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 11, 2013

Opera Night

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
by Shera Cohen

Maestro Kevin Rhodes called the evening “a potpourri of opera.” With 15 arias – primarily dramatic with a smattering of comedic –penned by 11 different composers, Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s “Passion, Love, Murder & Mayhem: It’s Opera” was a success on many levels.

As expected, Rhodes’ exuberance was contagious. The members of the SSO responded to their director’s enthusiasm in kind.  Each section had its moments to shine, and each of these professional musicians could easily hold the proverbial candle to the talents of those in more well-known symphonies in larger cities throughout the United States. Rhodes, equally delightful as a storyteller, preceded the performance of the arias with a mini-synopsis. Particularly for those uninitiated to opera, placing the upcoming piece into context made the music even more special.

The job of assembling the concert’s five vocalists must have been daunting, because these three women and two men could not have been more perfect. Mary Wilson’s high soprano trills in Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia was joyful. Amy Johnson’s Pace pace from Verdi’s La forze del destino was as lush as her harp accompaniment. Verdi work represented a good portion of the second part of the concert, including the full orchestra’s rousing Overture to this same opera. O don Fatale, from Don Carlo, highlighted Stacey Rishoi’s vibrant mezzo-soprano. Verdi’s La Traviata’s duet Un di Felice featured Wilson and Eric Ashcraft. At this point in the evening, Ashcraft had already shone his talent in pieces from La Giocana and Madama Butterfly capping with the poignant Vesti la guibba from I pagliaci. Finally, it is not often that the bass singer is given solos, but the SSO gladly shared its stage with Gustav Andreassen who was particularly deep and dramatic in two roles as the Devil in Faust and Mefistofele.

While seemingly something small to notice was the stance of the singers – simply put, they didn’t just stand there. Without props or staging, they “acted” their roles in the operas. Solos and duets formed the two hour presentation, with an ensemble work as an encore – a fun piece, whose composer is obviously not identified in the program book; after all it was an encore. Let’s hope SSO encores Opera Night each season.