Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Reivew: OTSL Gerdine Young Artists Shine in CENTER STAGE'

A Whitman’s Sampler of Operatic Yummies

BWW Reivew: OTSL Gerdine Young Artists Shine in CENTER STAGE'

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis threw great bouquets of song into the turbulent sky last night. This was the night when the members of the Gerdine Young Artists Program got to take Center Stage and show off all that they've been learning. The evening was far, far beyond a "Senior Recital". These young people have trained with the world's best; they have performed in supporting roles in major world-class productions at Opera Theatre. What we saw last night was the expression of remarkable natural talents that have been finely tuned by intense training. These young artists are ready to shine on the world's finest opera stages.

It was glorious!

Now Saint Louis has been breaking heat-records, and (because of pandemic precautions) the OTSL performances this season are held in a lovely, but temporary, outdoor theater. Could singers (or audience) endure opera at 90º? On the other hand the forecast was for a thunder-storm. Would we all be rained-out?

As fate would have it heavy rain began in the afternoon-but it was all over about an hour before curtain time. The effect: to lower the temperature by some 20º! When we arrived the patrons and the staff were in even higher spirits than usual. And all the seats were dry! (OTSL has many diligent volunteers.)

The great soprano Patricia Racette was Co-curator of the event. On greeting us she mentioned that during the earlier rain she'd had a little talk with God. He must have been in a receptive mood.

The evening was all dessert and no dull vegetables. Eleven scenes from your very favorite operas were presented, and most of them featured quite beloved numbers. Twenty Young Artists participated-each singing one or two lead roles. The selections covered the full spectrum of opera, from pathos to passion, from sorrow to quick bright wit, from tragedy to hilarious farce. These were the scenes we saw:

Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte: "La mia Dorabella capace non é" (I.1)
Bellini's Norma: "Mira o Norma" (II.1)
Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles: "Au fond du temple saint" (I.2)
Gluck's Iphegénie en Tauride: "O moment trop heureaux!" (III.4)
Verdi's Rigoletto: "Bella figlia dell'amore" (IV.1)
(These singers stole that glorious quartet right back from Bugs Bunny.)
Massenet's Werther: "Voici le clavecin qui chantait mes bonheurs" (III)
Donizetti's La fille du régiment: Lesson scene (II.3)
Puccini's Madama Butterfly: "Io so che alle sue pene / Addio fiorito asil" (III)
Verdi's La traviata: "Madamigella Valéry . . . (II.1)
R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier: "Marie Theres'! / Hab' mir's gelobt" (III)
J. Strauss II's Die Fledermaus: "Orlofsky's Aria", "Adele's Laughing Song",
"Champagne Song", "Sing to Love" (II)

A mighty deluge of beautiful song!

OTSL's usual policy is to sing all their operas in English, but these (except for Fledermaus) were sung in their original Italian, German, or French-which are, after all, the languages in which these young artists will usually perform when they fly off into the world.

The singers were:

Sopranos: Angel Azzarra, Avery Boettcher, Helen Zhibing Huang, Bianca Orsi,
Lindsey Reynolds, Angel Riley

Mezzo-sopranos: Tesia Kwarteng, Sophia Maekawa, Meridian Prall

Tenors: Terrence Chin-Loy, Ryan Bryce Johnson, Chance Jonas-O'Toole, Moises Salazar,
Ganson Salmon

Baritones: Rob McGinness, Kyle Miller, Geoffrey Peterson, Andrew René,
Schyler Vargas

Bass-baritone: Evan Lazdowski

Each and every one was splendid.

Wonderful work was done by Music Director Damien Francoeur-Krzyzek; by Stage Directors Patricia Racette, James Robinson, James Blaszko and Tara Branham; by Lighting and Video Designer Jerran Kowalski; and by Sound Designer Steven Colby. Kudos to all!

Throughout the evening, above and behind the stage, another performance was taking place. The sky was full of the grandest, most dazzling display of lightning I've ever seen! (And as a Kansas boy I've seen some wonders.) Moreover, it was utterly silent! Once or twice one could hear the soft, distant "pop-pop-pop" of Juneteenth fireworks, but that was a mere sprinkle of spice to this great musical night.

About half-way through the program Co-curator James Robinson popped out to announce that yes, he had his eye on the weather and that we might expect rain in fifteen minutes or so, but that the singers would press on as long as possible.

A few moments later Young Werther sang the ominous lyric, "Now is the time for storms and sorrow!" But the weather gods smiled on us and held off the rain until the last song was sung, the last bow was taken, and we all had walked to our cars. Ms. Racette's prayers were potent indeed.

Juan Diego Flórez Cancels Carnegie Hall Recital Scheduled For Tomorrow Photo
Carnegie Hall has announced that, due to illness, tenor Juan Diego Flórez must regrettably cancel his recital scheduled for tomorrow—Sunday, January 29 at 2:00 p.m.—in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage. This concert will be rescheduled as part of a future Carnegie Hall season.

Lyric Opera of Kansas Citys Deborah Sandler Kemper Named Among 2022 Top Professionals of t Photo
Lyric Opera of Kansas City General Director and CEO Deborah Sandler Kemper has been awarded one of the 2022 Top Professionals of the Year by Musical America Worldwide.

Magic Strikes With Emmanuel Pahud Performing Mozarts MAGIC FLUTE FANTASY Next Week! Photo
The year is 1791. The lights are dimmed and a gentle hush descends on the restless audience, all dressed in glittering finery. Mozart himself is at the podium, his baton lifted to guide the eager musicians. Clear notes play out, creating delightful tunes that ring through the Austrian theatre. In that moment, magic is created.

World-Premiere Opera ANOTHER CITY to be Presented at Houston Grand Opera in March Photo
Houston Grand Opera will stage its 74th world-premiere opera, Another City, on March 9, 10, and 11, with performances at the downtown campus of Ecclesia Houston.

From This Author - Steve Callahan

A native Kansan I have a BA (Math and Theatre) and MA (Theatre). I was working on a PhD in Theatre when IBM sniffed my math background and lured me away with money enough to feed my (then two) chil... (read more about this author)

Review: VERDI'S MACBETH at Winter OperaReview: VERDI'S MACBETH at Winter Opera
January 25, 2023

St. Louis’ Winter Opera opened its sixteenth season with a vocally brilliant production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Review: LA RONDINE at Winter OperaReview: LA RONDINE at Winter Opera
November 25, 2022

Winter Opera has presented a truly gorgeous production of Puccini's La Rondine (The Swallow). Puccini is the supreme master of romantic melody, and in Rondine he outdoes himself. I love this opera, my heart having been beguiled early by one lilting, gently syncopated romantic waltz refrain that recurs again and again like the memory of a distant sweet infatuation.

Review: THE GOOD SHIP ST. LOUIS at Upstream TheaterReview: THE GOOD SHIP ST. LOUIS at Upstream Theater
November 14, 2022

The world premiere of 'The Good Ship St. Louis' is beautiful, theatrical, stylish, poetic, rich. It's a gracefully told tale of doomed refugees.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Union Avenue OperaReview: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Union Avenue Opera
August 25, 2022

This, Sondheim's most charming work, receives a splendid production at Union Avenue Opera. Yesterday I mentioned to two of my kids that we'd just seen A Little Night Music. Now they had both memorized most of Sweeney Todd some forty years ago while in grade school or junior high, so I was appalled to find that neither of them was familiar with this earlier Sondheim masterpiece. What sort of wretchedly deprived childhood had we given them?!

Review: FALSTAFF at Union Avenue OperaReview: FALSTAFF at Union Avenue Opera
August 1, 2022

Verdi's Falstaff is another glittering gem in the train of Union Avenue Opera. I'm not a big fan of 're-purposing' classic plays. Poor Shakespeare! He's been subjected to such vandalism over the years with modern 'concept' versions of his works. No, I do not want to go to see a trendy lesbian-Hamlet-on-Mars!