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BWW Review: Arizona Opera Presents STUDIO SPOTLIGHT CONCERT

Three Great Arias and a Fabulous Sonata

BWW Review: Arizona Opera Presents STUDIO SPOTLIGHT CONCERT

On Saturday evening, December 19, 2020, Arizona Opera premiered its third Studio Spotlight Series Concert online at no charge. The first part of the program featured tenor Bille Bruley, soprano Kaitlyn Johnson, and bass-baritone Brandon Morales singing opera arias. The second part was a performance of César Franck's Violin Sonata in A Major by Arizona Opera Orchestra's new Concert Master, Ikuko Kanda, together with Arizona Opera's Head of Music and Director of the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio, Christopher Cano.

As Ferrando, normally a role for a light tenor, Bille Bruley sang "Un' aura amorosa del nostro tesoro" ("A loving aura of our treasure") from Mozart and Da Ponte's Cosi Fan Tutte. I was used to Bruley singing heavier roles and his voice is more dramatic than lyric. Nevertheless, he sang the aria with secure, bronze-glinting tones.

In an excerpt from Wagner's Lohengrin, Kaitlyn Johnson's was a noble but troubled Elsa who maintained her aristocratic bearing as she waited for a hero to rescue her. She sang an impassioned plea for help in her Act I "dream monologue" ("Einsam in trüben Tagen" ("Lonely in gloomy days") and she showed an understanding of the role with every note.

Brandon Morales gave a solid delivery of the aria "Madamina! Il catalogo e questo" ("My dear lady, this is the catalogue") from Mozart's Don Giovanni. As, Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello, his gestures were demonstrative, especially with regard to the sizes and ages of the Don's conquests. At the end of the aria, he repeated the phrase "voi sapete quel che fa," ("You know what happens") with suggestive melismas and a lecherous innuendo to denote the Don's actions with women. Morales would make an interesting Leporello.

César Franck wrote his A major Violin Sonata in 1886 as a wedding present for violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Franck had promised a violin sonata to Cosima von Bülow some years before, but never gave into her. Whatever work Franck had done on that piece may have ended up in the sonata he later wrote for Ysaÿe. Although Franck did not attend Ysaÿe's wedding, on the day it took place, a mutual friend presented the composition to the couple as Franck's gift. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe and the pianist Marie-Léontine Bordes-Pène premiered the sonata for wedding guests and even at this impromptu performance the sonata was widely praised as a musical poem.

The Franck Violin Sonata is a complex piece into which the composer sank brilliant musical ideas that are as intellectual as they are emotional. Thus, the work stands up to multiple hearings. I love the way it alternates between major and minor keys. The artistry of Kanda's performance, her warmth of tone, and Cano's exquisite playing led this listener into a dream-like mood. Both artists displayed subtle articulation and smooth phrasing that repeatedly enchanted this listener.

This third Studio Spotlight concert is now available on Arizona Opera's digital channel along with the first two concerts and considerable interesting non-musical content. Each of these three Studio Spotlight Concerts has been a valuable addition to Arizona Opera's online repertoire and I suggest listening to them while they are available for free.

Photo of Ikuko Kanda courtesy of AZ Opera.

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From This Author Maria Nockin