Wilmington's venerable Thalian Hall played host to a return performance by a young artist with her roots here in the Port City: soprano Nikoleta Rallis who has made her home in New York City for the past six years. Her co-performer was her father Michael Rallis, a physician and professional-level tenor who has appeared in numerous area productions over the past twenty years.
The performance was billed as a gala concert and with the enthusiasm of the hometown crowd, not to mention the bright stage presence of Ms. Rallis herself, it was a high-spirited event. She treated her listeners to both opera and musical theatre, highlighting her substantial expressive range.
The concert was actually a three-way event shared by Ms. Rallis, her father, and her accompanist, Azamat Sydykov who is a concert pianist. After numerous words of thanks from Ms. Rallis to family, friends, and sponsors, Sydykov began the program with the Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53 by Chopin. The performance varied between somewhat restrained to strong and effective. The transition back to the main theme was particularly fine.
Ms. Rallis then took the stage for her first number, "Quando me'n vo'," popularly known as "Musetta's Waltz" from La Bohème by Puccini. She had a full tone and expressive long lines. One might have wished the character to be more coquettish, lighter in sonority.
Mr. Rallis then made his first appearance in "Amor ti vieta" from Fedora by Umberto Giordano. He clearly loves the Italian repertory. He established immediate presence of character, with a tone that was resonant and passionate.
Ms. Rallis returned for "Song to the Moon" from Dvořák's Rusalka. This substantial piece brought forth impressive singing and was a highlight of the program. The character was effectively conveyed, and the long lines soared with lovely pure tone. A tendency in the earlier Puccini to scoop upward to pitches was resolved here.
Mr. Rallis continued with "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond" from Wagner's Die Walküre. This is one of Wagner's lyrical high points. The earlier section of this paean to spring and love could have been more tender; the dramatic moments were effective.
The half ended with a fun-filled, theatrical "O sole mio." Father and daughter played it as a competitive duet. As well as entertaining, it was a pleasure to the listener in how their two voices blended when they sang together.
In the second half, Gershwin's "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess was a high point. This exquisite number was sung passionately by Ms. Rallis and with beautiful tone. The scooping which was a drawback in the Puccini worked well here.
Ms. Rallis' musical theatre persona came out in "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady. This was upbeat and enjoyable, though it could have been still more exuberant. The later "Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss" from Franz Lèhar's Giuditta, was fun and seductive. Father and daughter ended the program as a duet, with "Libiamo ne' lieti calici," the famous drinking song from Verdi's La Traviata. It was festive, just like the event itself.
Sydykov, who had three solos on the program, accompanied always discreetly, with color and rhythmic precision.
The programmed songs were followed in quick succession by three encores which enhanced the celebratory atmosphere. Father and daughter were a lovely duet vocally, and in their obvious connection with one another. Ms. Rallis is a fine artist and Wilmington will hear with eagerness about her growing professional success.