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Angela Brown delivers dynamism at Opera Gala
Paree may be Gay but Dayton is definitely Gala! In the space of a week, two major arts events served up giant-sized portions of excitement and musical virtuosity.
Dayton Opera opened the gala week by presenting Metropolitan Opera star soprano Angela Brown in recital. Angela’s first appearance in Dayton was part of the Opera Gala, Opera Goes to the Movies, in 2005. Since that time she has had a meteoric rise as an international opera star winning rave reviews in dramatic roles at The Met and other international houses.
Dayton Opera Impresario Tom Bankston created a most engaging program considering Angela’s many-faceted talents. He combined operatic arias with contemporary operatic selections and Afro-American Spirituals. In addition, he invited the Wilberforce University Choir and director Jeremy Winston to join Angela in the celebration.
The result was exactly that. The vocal gifts of Angela Brown raised every selection to a level of crystalline clarity and vocal energy rarely equaled. The beginning of the program featured three major operatic arias from Aida, Tosca and La Forza del Destino.
As an opera devotee, I felt that this was the meat of the recital. Hearing the songs of William Grant Still and arias from Richard Danielpour’s contemporary opera Margaret Garner changed that focus.
A cantata of spirituals by John Carter gave voice to this familiar genre. If Verdi had written spirituals, they would have sounded the way Angela Brown sang them.
Suddenly, from the side entrances of the Schuster, the black-clad Wilberforce choir entered. With high spirits but in disciplined movements, they sang both a spiritual and a Beethoven “Hallelujah.” The audience, enthralled, responded with the same spirit as the performers.
The choir was joined by Angela in a version of the majestic “Regina Coeli” from Cavalleria Rusticana. This sustained hymn was delivered with greater dynamism than ever heard from the opera stage. I felt tears welling up. Many others agreed.
The recital lived up to all its billing as a Star Gala. It was a complete palette of great music delivered by a great artist and a great choir.
DPO celebrates 75th with Galway & Gala
A few days later, it was the Dayton Philharmonic celebrating its 75th birthday with another Gala. James Galway, the icon of Irish music, flute playing and beguiling wit was invited as soloist. Sir James invited his own guest star, his wife Lady Jeanne Galway, to share the soloist’s spotlight.
The concert celebrated the history of the Philharmonic with a sold out house plus some fabulous bells and whistles. Before the concert, 21 members of the Collegiate Festival Flute Choir gave a mega-dose of fluting to the gathering in the Wintergarden.
As they were playing, a buzz traveled though the crowd. Sir James himself, sporting a red tie over his tail coat, was tootling along with the delighted students.
To keep the festive atmosphere alive, at intermission, more than a dozen dancers of The Celtic Academy of Irish Dance made us all feel as if we were wearing the green.
An extra dose of nostalgia was provided by the presence of Paul and Phyllis Katz’ son, Dr. Nevin Katz, and representatives for Isaiah Jackson and Charles Wendelken-Wilson, previous conductors of the orchestra. A well-deserved recognition was given to departing Executive Director Kurt Long by Maestro Neal and the orchestra.
The concert included a work discovered in the archives by Paul Katz, founding conductor of the Philharmonic. Titled “A Jolly Suite,” it was exactly that. Lots of rum-a-tum-tum, fun in the percussion section and a piano interlude all blended to make audience and musicians feel very jolly, indeed.
This was followed by Sir James and his beaming smile and gleaming flute. He joined the orchestra in Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2. Full of trills, sustained glorious notes and outer movement cadenzas, the flute and the orchestra played with the joy which is Mozart.
After intermission the small chamber orchestra was replaced by the full complement of Philharmonic musicians. They gave a very upbeat rendering of Richard Strauss’ Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. In spite of some tonal aberrations, the fun-loving music of Strauss’ characters radiated, thanks to the orchestra and delightful solos from Aurelian Oprea, Eileen Whalen, Charles Pangard and even the tuba of Tim Northcut.
The final programmed work was by Mozart’s contemporary Domenico Cimarosa. His concerto for two flues featured the Galway family’s manifold talents. Lady Jeanne certainly held her own with husband Sir James as they plumbed the circuitous route of Baroque music.
The heart of the flute became clear in the encores. Sir James, with leprechaunal (if this isn’t a word – it should be) wit told a tale which made us feel as if we were in a Belfast pub. He made us believe that Mozart and Beethoven were really Irish.
The joyous spirit of these encores, Mozart’s Turkish March, an Irish Jig, the mellifluous “Danny Boy” and a Bach Chaconne made the sound of the flute surpass the limitations of the Baroque music and leap right into our hearts.
Bravo Sir James! Brava Lady Jeanne! Bravi to our wonderful orchestra! Also, every ticket holder was given a CD of gems of the orchestra’s music history. A welcome remembrance, thanks to the Miriam Rosenthal Trust Fund.
The “Dream Team” is not always a bunch of overpaid, felony producing, spoiled rotten professional athletes. We have our own “Dream Team” here in Dayton. It is the combination of the Victoria and the Human Race Theatre Companies, director Kevin Moore, superstar actor Scott Stoney and a collection of locally connected talents.
Together, they created Shenandoah, a musical by Gary Geld and Peter Udell. It is a different, but universal, look at war whose tragedy and overwhelming pity was sensitively explored.. In this case it is the Civil War,
The music, played live, is replete with tuneful songs. The set and costumes were charming establishing the mood for that simple life but highly-charged emotional time. The truly outstanding acting, singing and dancing were seamless as the play worked its way under the skins of the audience.
Scott Stoney starred as the father. Outstanding performances by WSU’s J.J. Tiemeyer, Human Race actors Scott Hunt, Morgan Grahame and Jake Lockwood, Muse Machine veteran Andrew Koslow, Stivers student Trey Melvin and local student Alex Roesch, joined visiting actors Kelly Mengelkoch, Steven Wenslawski, Eric Ulloa, Stephen Thompson and Justin Stoney to make this a memorable hit.
Shenandoah continues through May 18th. Don’t miss it!