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BWW Review: SOME ENCHANTED EVENING from Pittsburgh Festival Opera

A Concert for Lovers of Great Music and Each Other.

BWW Review: SOME ENCHANTED EVENING from Pittsburgh Festival OperaOn February 14, 2021, Valentine's Day, Pittsburgh Festival Opera presented seven singers in a romantic concert entitled Some Enchanted Evening. James Lesniak and Robert Frankenberg provided thoughtful and supportive piano accompaniment while Festival Opera Board members added charming love stories. Bass Brian Kontes opened the program with a smooth, legato rendition of its namesake: Richard Rogers' "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. It was a delightful way to start off an in-home program for couples of all descriptions.

Alice Chung is a dramatic mezzo currently attending the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Fabulous singers graduate from that school and Chung will be no exception. She has both the silvery high notes and the resonant low tones needed for Bizet's Carmen. Her Habañera told a captivating tale about the rebellious bird called Love, setting the scene for Kontes' return with a lyrical rendition of the somewhat possessive "On the Street Where You Live" from Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady.

Baritone Yazid Gray, currently a resident artist with Pittsburgh Opera, was a studio artist at Opera Santa Barbara when this reviewer enjoyed his performances in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Ward's The Crucible. Here, he sang the title song from Sheldon Harnick's She Loves Me with bronzed tones and excellent diction.

Tenor John Pickle and soprano Charlene Canty continued with two Lehar pieces. He sang a suave and romantic "Dein ist mein gauzes Herz" from The Land of Smiles and she sang a pert and coquettish "Vilja" from The Merry Widow. Then Gray and soprano Danielle Pastin sang Silvio and Nedda's steamy duet from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. They steal time together while Canio is drinking in a local bar, but there are always prying eyes in a circus troupe. Nedda knows she will be killed if caught, but she sings proudly of her true love with Silvio. Both artists sang this daring piece with heartfelt sonorous tones.

John Pickle returned with an expressive rendition of Jerome Kern's apostrophe of an ideal lover, "All the Things You Are. " Katy Shackleton Williams introduced her lovely sound with Foo Fighters' amusing "Times like This" and Patrick Doyle's "The Dreame" from the film, Sense and Sensibility. Chung returned with a torrid and slightly jazzy version of "My Funny Valentine" from Rogers's Babes in Arms, while Gray pulled at the audience's heartstrings with "This nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific.

Pickle sang "O Soave Fanciulla" from Act I of Puccini's La bohème to Pastin with drama and charisma. Kontes and Williams offered "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera with consummate Broadway style and excellent diction, while Pastin rendered the song about dancing all night from Lerner's My Fair Lady, and Canty told of the wonders that would take place "If I Loved You."

Saint-Saens Samson and Delilah was the opera that Chung and Pickle chose to present their major operatic opus. When the tenor and mezzo are together, before Delilah betrays him, she sings that her heart opens at the sound of his voice and they fall in love. Chung is vocally perfect in this role and Pickle was a believably lovesick swain.

From Puccini's comedy, La rondine (The Swallow), Danielle Pastin sang of Doretta's wonderful dream kiss. Charlene Canty and John Pickle followed it with "Tonight" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, and the entire cast joined, via technical wizardry to present the finale, "Lippen Schweigen" ("Silent Lips"), the famous chorus from The Merry Widow.

Between some of the musical offerings, various members of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera told humorous and amorous tales of courtship. I loved the doctor who went shopping for a girlfriend among the nurses in his hospital, the lady lovers who walked miles to find a Left Bank restaurant with a vacant table for dinner on Valentines's Day, and the soprano who found that her single red rose was really a silk panty.

Technically, this was a really good concert with no drop outs in the sound, or other flaws that sometimes mar concerts made with people performing from various locales. Some Enchanted Evening is a delightful online program and it is available at $10 per household throughout the coming year. More info at https://pittsburghfestivalopera.org

Photo of Yazid Gray singing "She Loves Me" courtesy of Pittsburgh Festival Opera.


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From This Author Maria Nockin