by Michael Caruso
The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, hosted a recital Sunday afternoon, Nov. 8, featuring the soprano and mezzo soloists from its parish choir. Krystiane Cooper and Alyson Harvey, accompanied by parish music director Erik Meyer, sang sacred and secular duets by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Faure, Webber, Delibes and Rossini for an audience that nearly filled St. Martin’s intimate sanctuary.
Cooper and Harvey’s program offered two aspects for consideration. Number one: how composers deal with the challenge of writing for two closely ranged female voices; and number two: how two vocalists can meet those challenges. Whereas J.S. Bach’s “Wenn des Kreuzes Bitterkeiten” and “Wir eilen mit schwachen doch emsigen schritten” were characterized by dense configurations of counterpoint, the two vocal lines in Handel’s “The Lord Is My Strength and My Song” were paired as a true duet. Although Mozart’s “Domine Deus” comes from his “Great Mass in C minor,” it’s voiced as an operatic dialogue, while Faure’s “Ave Maria” casts the soprano leading the mezzo. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” from his “Requiem” sets the two voices as though they were a pair of birds singing in the sky.
Cooper and Harvey sang each selection with the appropriate cast of tone and color. When contrasting colors were called for, they provided them. When complementary tones were asked for, they offered them. They were equally adept conjuring up the drama of their operatic selections by Mozart, Delibes and Rossini. Cooper’s bright voice was flawlessly balanced by Harvey’s smoky timbres. Throughout the entire program, Meyer provided his vocalists with imaginative support.
VOX AMA DEUS
Romanian-born conductor Valentin Radu will lead the Camerata Ama Deus Baroque Chamber Orchestra in concert Friday, Nov. 13, 8 p.m. in the Chestnut Hill United Church in an all-Vivaldi program.
“Vox Ama Deus (the overall name of all the ensemble Radu directs) has had a wonderful relationship with Chestnut Hill’s music lovers for the past 30 years,” Radu said. “Our Chestnut Hill audiences have always been warm and appreciative. New this season, we will be twice appearing in the lovely sanctuary of the Chestnut Hill United Church, 8812 Germantown Ave.
“I can’t think of anybody who doesn’t enjoy the vibrant, inventive and exciting music of Antonio Vivaldi. That’s why I’ve entitled this concert ‘Vivaldi – Joy of Living!’ The Camerata Chamber Orchestra will perform contrasting, sparkling works by this master of master composers from the late Baroque era. One of the selections will be a concerto for the full orchestra, which will focus the virtuosic spotlight on our entire ensemble of 18 brilliant musicians.”
Tickets are priced from $10 to $30 and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 610-688-2800, or visit www.VoxAmaDeus.org.
The Academy of Vocal Arts opened its production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” Saturday, Nov. 7, in its Warden Theater. It’s a mounting that proves several seminal points: “Giovanni” perfectly combines the lyricism of Italian vocal writing with the symphonic substance of Austro-Germanic instrumental scoring, making it very possibly the greatest opera ever written; that its tale of sexual debauchery retains its potency two and a half centuries after it was composed; that staging it in a traditional manner is more thrilling than any mindless “updating;” and that AVA’s roster of incredibly talented young singers and gifted directors/designers makes it the place to go for the best in local opera.
Stage director Jeffrey Buchman’s “concept” was simple: follow Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto with the inestimable guidance of Mozart’s peerless music. The result Saturday evening was a production that was inspired by the Warden Theater’s small stage. Christofer Macatsoris’ superb musical direction elicited exhilarating playing from the AVA Opera Orchestra and accomplished singing from his young but gifted cast.
It was the three female leads that were particularly noteworthy opening night. Soprano Vanessa Vasquez was majestic as the enraged Donna Anna, the noblewoman assaulted by Don Giovanni’s outrageous sexual attack. Soprano Anush Avetisyan was breathtaking as Donna Elivira, one of Giovanni’s countless spurned victims, and soprano Allegra de Vita (a first-year student, no less) was a gratifyingly feisty Zerlina.
AVA’s “Don Giovanni” continues through Nov. 21. Call 215-735-1685 or visit www.avaopera.org.