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Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium at the Brevard Music Center has the unfortunate propensity to trap the heat of an unusually hot day, and if you’re sitting in the center section as I was, virtually no air moves until after intermission, save for the fanning actions of your seat mates. If the heat was as oppressive as I felt it was, it must have been even more intense onstage under the lights. And yet one never knew whether any of the performers were singing under duress, such was the delight projected by these budding professionals who literally sang to the back of the house without amplification. The program was ambitious — 24 numbers (12 per half) of the best-loved arias and ensembles primarily from the nineteenth century, though Monteverdi, Mozart, and Richard Strauss each got their nods. Everyone in the Janiec Opera Company had their moment to shine as soloists and members of the chorus. Witnessing the development of the Company within the past five years has been nothing short of thrilling. The depth of talent within the ranks in terms of vocal chops, coupled with the profound understanding of opera as theatre is what is so gratifying to experience. This performance was exceptional.
Patrick Hansen, Music Director, sweated the evening out doing yeoman’s work as pianist (kudos also to his page turner). His infallible stage sense extended to this “production” which was so much more than a vocal recital; rather, a tag-team of deliciously varied dramatic scenes was enacted, though without sets, costumes, or supplied text translations. The latter could have been a stumbling block for those less familiar with each piece, but the singers had been superbly coached in the dramatic import of each number — so much so that, with so much emotion playing on each face and with the help of the one-sentence “gist” of the songs provided in the program, one could easily garner the essence of what was transpiring. I actually prefer this approach to excessive explanations from the stage about plot and characters.
The evening also served as advertisement for three of the upcoming staged operas by the Company, as numbers were included from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Arthur Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, and Puccini’s La Bohème. Though Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites is also part of the season, no numbers were sung here. Here’s what we heard:
Rossini, The Barber of Seville: “Largo al factotum” (Keith Browning); “Una voce poco fa” (Melissa Fajardo); “La Calunnia” (David Weigel).
Mozart, Don Giovanni: “Là ci darem la mano” (Devon Chandler and Ronald Wilbur), and from The Magic Flute “Pa…pa…pa…” (Nicholas Davis and Etta Fung) and “Der Hölle Rache” (Carissa Scroggins).
Bizet, Carmen: “Votre toast, je peux vous le render” (Trevor Martin), “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” (Summer Hassan) and “Près des ramparts de Séville” (Julia Snowden), and from Les pȇcheurs des perles,"Au fond du Temple Saint"(Brian Wallin and Peter Johnson).
Verdi, MacBeth: “Come dal ciel precipita” (Evan Ross), and from La Traviata “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” (Elise Jablow, Frank Mutya and Company).
Arthur Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore: “Ruler of the Queen’s Navy” (James Eder and Company) and “The hours creep on apace” (Elise Jablow).
Lehár, The Merry Widow: “I’m off to Chez Maxim” (Joe Hager).
Gounod, Romeo and Juliet: “Je vieux vivre” (Abbey Curzon).
Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin: “Kuda, kuda, kuda vi udalilis” (Clark Weyrauch).
Delibes’s Lakmé “Viens Mallika!” (Megan Samarin and Elise Marie Kennedy).
Richard Strauss, Aridne auf Naxos: “Sein wir wieder gut” (Katie Abraham).
Saint-Saëns, Samson and Dalila: “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” (Tara Curtis).
Monteverdi, Lincoronazione di Poppea: “Pur ti miro” (Megan Samarin and Elizabeth Reeves).
Puccini, La Bohème: “Quando m’en vo” (Gabriella Sam and Company) and “Vecchia zimarra” (Nicholas Davis).
Johann Strauss II, Die Fledermaus: “Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande” (Etta Fung).