What might one have found on a Wednesday noontime at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market? Let’s see, there was a gang of tomatoes and squash. There were beaucoup cucumbers and carrots. Oh, and a plenitude of arias. To enhance the “Horn of Plenty” that was the Farmers Market, members of the North Carolina Opera premiered the program, Opera About Town, for the edification of the many shoppers and onlookers. Presented by these excellent musicians were over a dozen pieces covering the spectrum from the light to the “heavy.”
Choosing an exceedingly appropriate work for this particular steamy day, soprano Michelle Ayres opened with “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. She followed later with a notably operatic version of “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” from Kern’s Showboat. “Vissi d’Arte” from Puccini’s Tosca showcased her powerful and even tones at their finest.
Mezzo Jennifer Seiger proved her indispensability as soloist, emcee, and chief stagehand. Her sonorous and vivid voice was first displayed in the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen, where she also showed distinct aptitude as a cabaret singer. She declared that “I Could Have Danced All Night” before performing an aria from Gounod’s Faust. Her finest work came late in the program with the famous “Non ti scordar di me” from Giordano’s Andrea Chènier.
The most promising young tenor, Daniel Hinson, worked especially hard. He opened with perhaps his best work, the dramatic “Vainement, ma bien-aimée” from Le Roi d’Ys by Edouard Lalo. His mellow voice showed a pleasing absence of harshness and excessive vibrato as he negotiated “Una furtiva lagrima” from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore. Weill’s Street Scene provided the moving “Lonely House.”
Puccini furnished two far-famed duets to round out the program. Ayres and Seiger collaborated on the “Flower Duet” from Madama Butterfly. In the La Bohème favorite, “O soave fanciulla,” Ayres and Hinson were quite appealing as Mimi and Rodolfo.
Providing a firm foundation for each and every offering by the singers was accompanist Kathryn Lewis. Her work on the (electronic) piano showed supportive musicianship, a contribution too often taken for granted.
Given the fine music and all of the equally fine foodstuffs available in this venue, the departing patrons should have felt sated spiritually and physically.
Similar programs with various artists will be reprised on August 18, September 15 and October 13, all at this Farmers Market on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. Check our calendar for details.