Opera Cleveland offers look at what’s to come
By David Ritchey
CLEVELAND — Opera Cleveland celebrated its “First Night,” literally, Oct. 6 in the Allen Theatre.
This was an important night, as the recently merged Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland showcased Opera Cleveland’s orchestra and chorus and some of America’s finest young opera stars with Metropolitan Opera conductor Joseph Colaneri at the podium. The two major opera companies in Northeast Ohio merged into what promises to be a major entertainment organization.
The “First Night” gala debut concert featured opera legend Sherrill Milnes — a Metropolitan Opera star, a three-time Grammy Award winner and a member of the board of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation — as host. Guest soloists included Carolyn Betty, Jordan Bisch, Sarah Coburn, Gianna Corbisiero, Jennifer Holloway, Quinn Kelsey, Brian Mulligan, Laura Vlasak Nolan, Dimitri Pittas, Victor Ryan Robertson and Christian Van Horn, all of whom are young artists associated with the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.
What better way to celebrate the opening night of a new opera company than to have 11 opera stars perform? Milnes explained the history and purpose of the Tucker Foundation and introduced the singers.
Milnes, during his singing career, often sang the duet “Au Fond du Temple Saint” from Georges Bizet’s opera “Les Pêcheurs de Perles” (“The Pearl Fishers”). Milnes no longer sings in performance, but he did conduct the orchestra while two of the young singers performed “Au Fond du Temple Saint.”
Of the 11 singers who performed
in “First Night,” some created characters
and acted the role. The most outstanding performer was
Coburn, a soprano. Coburn sang “Doll Song”
from Offenbach’s “Les contes d’Hoffmann.”
She played the wind-up doll with good comedic style,
evoking appropriate laughter from the
Van Horn, a bass, also has acting
skills. He performed Mozart’s “Madamina,
il catalogo e questo” from “Don Giovanni”
with energy and wit.
The program ended with the 11
singers on stage performing Leonard Bernstein’s
“Make Our Garden Grow” from “Candide.” This
was not the show-stopping
number designed to bring the audience to its feet. However,
the theme of the song was appropriate — let us
unite and grow our garden (or our opera).
Colaneri directed the Opera Cleveland
Chorus, a 55-voice group, and the 56 members of the
Cleveland Orchestra. The excellent quality of the orchestra
and the chorus stand as previews
of the high quality of work audiences may expect of
Opera Cleveland’s debut
season promises variety and excitement. The season includes
“Salome” (April 2007), “La Traviata”
(June 2007), “The Turn of the Screw” (July
2007), “A Little Night Music” (August 2007)
and “Tosca” (October 2007).
Opera Cleveland has a
few months to prepare for its debut
season. But if “First Night” is the preview,
the performances by Opera Cleveland will be worth the
months of anticipation.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in
communications and is a professor of communications
at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American
Theatre Critics Association.
Taking a bow at Opera Cleveland’s “First Night” gala concert are, from left, baritone Timothy Mix, tenor Dimitri Pittas and Metropolitan Opera legend and “First Night” conductor Sherrill Milnes.
Photo: Eric P. Mull