Mother’s Day weekend in Sarasota turned out to be a rather special one for music as well. Sarasota Opera presented “Opera Composers in Song” and Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota combined with Choral Artists of Sarasota in “An Afternoon of Operetta.”
On Friday night three singers, Elizabeth Tredent, soprano; Matthew Vickers, tenor; and Marco Nisticò, bartone; with pianist John F. Spencer IV; gave us a large sampling of songs written by opera composers.
Some opera composers were better at writing songs than others, such as Berlioz, Poulenc, Strauss, and Rachmaninoff, all included in this greatly varied program. Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi and Bellini were a bit more limited in their output of songs, especially those that were not excerpts of arias from their operas, so the evening gave us an interesting mixture of compositional as well as vocal talent.
Not all opera singers are at their best in songs, since a song must create a dramatic situation or story within three to five minutes rather than over a complete evening. The singer rarely has a defined character to portray, so must really make all the points of character and situation in a short time. And some do this better than others.
Fortunately, all the three singers created good moments with their songs. Highlights of the evening included Nisticò’s renditions of Rossini’s “La Danza,” Donizetti’s “Me voglio fa ‘na casa” (I want to build a house), and of course Leoncavallo’s classic “Matinata.” Tredent was at her dramatic and vocal best in Delibes’ “Les Filles de Cadix,” and “The Answer” and “Spring Waters,” by Rachmaninoff. Vickers brought down the house with Beethoven’s “Adelaide” and “Cäcilie” by Richard Strauss.
Pianist Spencer provided a solid musical foundation and support for the singers and even had a solo, “Piccolo Valzer” by Puccini, which was a piano version of “Musetta’s Waltz” from “La Bohéme.”
It took a bit of time for everything to warm up and fall in line, but it did and the result was an evening of rather special singing.
Sunday, Artist Series Concerts presented “An Afternoon of Operetta” featuring both oddities and old chestnuts from the repertoire. The program was conceived by Joseph Holt, artistic director of the Artist Series Concerts and Choral Artists of Sarasota, who also introduced the program and provided excellent support at the piano.
Soloists were soprano Emily Martin, mezzo Stacey Rishoi, tenor Mark Lubas and baritones Garrett Obrycki and Luis González, who were joined in the first half by a string quartet of Sarasota Orchestra principals: Daniel Jordan and Samantha Bennett, violin; Steven Laraia, viola; and Natalie Helm, cello.
The afternoon began with the Poet and Peasant Overture of Franz von Suppé, arranged for piano and quartet, which unfortunately sounded a bit thin and rather unimpressive, compared to the fully orchestrated original we’re accustomed to hearing.
These days von Suppé is almost exclusively known for the overtures to his many operettas, and we forget that there is a full-length work for each of these overtures.
Martin and Rishoi sang a brief duet from “Boccaccio,” followed by two selections from “Donna Juanita.” These were both pleasant and straight forward, but didn’t really offer much musical substance.
Martin then sang an excellent “The Doll Song” from Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann,” showing off her clear and vibrant soprano voice at its best, which was followed by the lovely “Barcarolle,” with Martin and Rishoi creating a lovely mood.
The Minuet, Galop, and Chorus from “Orpheus in the Underworld,” featuring the famous cancan theme ended the first half on a joyful and boisterous note.
The entire second half of the program consisted of a truncated concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” which was in essence a parade of best-known numbers from this venerable operetta classic.
Once again Martin was outstanding as Mable closely followed by Lubas as Frederick, Obrycki as the Major General, Rishoi as Ruth and González as the Pirate King.
A concert performance of “Pirates” is always difficult to bring off, since the fully staged production relies so much on traditional choreography and movement, but these singers gave an excellent sampling and impression of this classic piece.
This was the closing concert of the season for Artist Series Concerts, and the final concert for Managing Director John Alan Fischer, who is retiring June 30 after 17 years with the organization.