Confession: my mind was tired (not to mention sore legs) from sitting all day for Baltimore City jury duty. Therefore, when I arrived at the gorgeous Engineer’s Club, I was hoping for a night of rejuvenating music. Baltimore Concert Opera’s artists did not disappoint, the dust and weariness of the world “at-large” were washed away with their sweet sounds.
I always feel like I’m stepping into a vintage radio show when I attend BCO concerts. The lights atop the music stands give it the feeling that any moment the “on-air” sign will light up and we’ll be off and running. It sets me up to smile and simply enjoy the experience.
This is Baltimore Concert Opera’s first production featuring such adventurous chorus works. With approximately 25 voices filling out the ranks, it was refreshing to hear them sing with requisite heft and a surprising sense of nuance.
The singers showed themselves to be consummate professionals throughout; showing off their acting chops in addition to their expressive voices. To begin, they served up a sweet little treat in the Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann featuring Suzanne Balaes-Blair (lyric soprano) and Kellie Van Horn (mezzo-soprano.) Van Horn also highlighted her ability to alternate between opposing characteristics in both Cruda Sorte from L’italiana in Algeri and the Habanera from Carmen. Coy and fiery, she played the virgin and the viper with zeal. Van Horn’s husband, Christian, seemed to share that same verve and vitality in his performance of Song of the Golden Calf from Faust. It was truly engrossing to watch him lean over the chorus beckoning them to join “Satan’s dance.”
A little later in the program, the Emily Ezzie (soprano) sang Signore, ascolta! from Turandot with love. In the opera Liù sings this aria to beg Calaf not to risk his life for the Princess. There was a beautifully tender moment when Liù begs, “Pietà!” and Calaf, played by Theodore Chletsos (tenor), turns to look at her and their gazes almost meet. It broke my heart in just the right way.
Brendan Cooke (General Director) insisted, “Oh, you have to hear the Triumphal March from Aida!” And, he’s not kidding. I could tell from the first notes that each singer loves forging through this dynamic excerpt. It is the crown jewel of this “favorites” presentation, to be certain. James Harp (pianist) was superb all evening long. He made the emotional depth of each piece clearly evident with his skilled playing. His patent coaching work with the chorus was not lost upon these ears, either.
I am sure that many of you reading this are in perhaps the same world-weary situation I was in last night. To each of you I write, “Run. Don’t walk. Get your tickets now.” You will not be disappointed in the caliber of this performance and you have two chances – tonight and Sunday. I can’t wait to hear all your thoughts. Tweet me @mezzoihnen with your performance schedule or thoughts this weekend.