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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.

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