The Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival celebrated its second year with this season's penultimate concert, which showcased the supportive, collaborative spirit of a whole town. Ambitious festival director Carrie Knowles and European organizer Neil Leiter had a large task in front of them in getting together the whole town of Cary on the project, but as a result, five great organizations came together in the spirit of the fine arts, presenting music, visual art, and the welcoming fellowship of a growing and thriving town.
Partnered with Cary Visual Art, this night of the Cross Currents Festival offered two collaborative events, starting down at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center with a delightful reception and cocktails honoring this year's entrants into the Cary Visual Art 2012 Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, with jazz saxophone player Bill Mann adding to the "cool" atmosphere. Even torrential rain that stormed through Cary for the first two hours of the event could not dampen anyone's spirits: volunteers swept through the building looking for paper towels to mop up puddles, and doormats to keep visitors from slipping
Tram rides were offered in order to view the twelve finalists' entries and hear what juror Jeffrey York had to say about each. Several of the sculptures, including Phil Hathcock's "Sounding Stone" and Mike Roig's "Whirleds II," even made intriguing, musical sounds when the wind hit them – as it had many chances to do on this stormy, blustery evening – adding to the theme of art encompassing many different mediums.
After the sculpture exhibition, guests were invited to travel back up Academy Street, a few short blocks to the Cary Arts Center, where the Cross Currents Festival presented its "Evening of Arias," sung by North Carolina Opera soprano Rachel Copeland and countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo. They were accompanied by the Brussels Chamber Orchestra and local wind players from the North Carolina Symphony.
The program consisted of less-performed arias from Franz Joseph Haydn, George Frideric Handel, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a few duets, and two lovely movements of Haydn's Quintetto Concertant, Op. 88, for orchestra alone. The orchestra had a lovely sound, each member playing as a soloist but with an extremely high level of communication between players. This helped the conductor-less ensemble remain unified in following the soloists when they took liberties with the music.
Rachel Copeland began with Handel's "Endless Pleasure" from Semele. Even from her first note, she showed a depth of character and expression in her singing that was subtle and clever, but still perceivable in the intimate setting of the Arts Center. Her range of character interpretation was exemplified in "Piangeró la sorte mia," from Handel's Giulio Cesare, where she depicts Cleopatra as both a despairing martyr and a demonic haunt. Her soaring tone carried her voice through all her characters and made both Handel and Mozart truly sparkle.
For anyone who has never heard a countertenor sing before, there is no better man for the job than Anthony Roth Constanzo. When he first opened his mouth to sing Handel's "Pena Tiranna" from Amadigi di Gaula, his pure, sweet tone whirled through the room. The despairing aria showcased his passionate, beautiful sound that can hardly be described in words.
When Constanzo and Copeland sang duets like Handel's classic "Per le porte del tormento," many members of the audience reached for handkerchiefs, tissues, sleeves – whatever they could find – for the depth of love and complex emotions stirred in many a breast. The pair was phenomenal, and their complex depiction of character and emotion completely captured the spirit of opera, as well as the complex collaboration of projects that made this exciting night possible.
The Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival concludes August 11th, at 7:30 PM at the Cary Arts Center: with the Brussels Chamber Orchestra, featuring Jennifer Streeter on harpsichord.