Entertainment » Music

Palm Beach Opera in 'Opera at the Waterfront '

by Jack Gardner
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Dec 16, 2014
Michael Chioldi and James Valenti
Michael Chioldi and James Valenti   (Source:Jack Gardner)

On Sunday Dec 13, Palm Beach Opera gave a preview concert for their 2015 season. "Opera at The Waterfront" was held at Meyer Amphitheater in West Palm Beach and featured performances by members of the Palm Beach Opera Young Artists Studio as well as tenor James Valenti and baritone Michael Chioldi.

James Valenti is tall in stature and has a beautiful spinto tenor voice that is distinctive and compelling. Michael Chioldi's lyric baritone voice is the perfect blend of beauty, drama and power.

The young artists that performed on the program were sopranos Bridgette Gan and Liana Guberman, mezzo-sopranos Rachel Arky and JoAna Rusche, tenors Nicholas Nestorak and Robert Watson, Baritone Jason Duika and bass-baritone Neil Nelson. The orchestra and the Palm Beach Opera Chorus were conducted by Greg Ritchey.

The program began with the overture from Rossini's "William Tell." This rousing piece is a favorite of audiences and one of the most easily recognized of all orchestral pieces. The theme from the television series "The Lone Ranger" comes from the third section of the overture.

Valenti and Chioldi performed "Dio che nell'alma infondere" from Verdi's opera "Don Carlos." Their voices blended well and both are very suited for the demands of this opera. Rusche then gave us one of Cherubino's arias from "Le Nozze di Figaro": the gentle and lilting "Voi che sapete." Watson followed with Rudolfo's aria "Che gelida manina" from Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme." This is the opera that will open the 2015 season at Palm Beach Opera.

Guberman and Duika then sang a duet from Ben Moore's brand new opera "Enemies: A Love Story." This opera will be receiving its world premiere this season at Palm Beach Opera.

Tenor Nestorak sang the famous "A mes amis" from Donizetti's "La fille du Regiment" which will be the final opera of PBO's 2015 season. This aria is famous for its nine rapid-fire high Cs in the cabaletta.

The chorus then treated the audience to the famous "Va pensiero" from Verdi's "Nabucco." Mezzo-soprano Arky provided one of the highlights of the evening with her performance of the "Composer's Aria" "Sein wir wieder gut" from the Richard Strauss opera "Ariadne auf Naxos." Arky's voice shimmered with a golden tone and she handled Strauss' difficult music with a glorious ease.

"Au fond du Temple Saint" from Bizet's "Les pecheurs des perles" found Valenti and Chioldi returning to the stage to sing this famous duet. The orchestra then performed the beautiful "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's opera "Cavalleria Rusticana."

The sextet from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Chi raffrena il mio furore" is one of the most beloved ensemble pieces in the operatic canon. Valenti sang Edgardo to Gan's Lucia and they were joined by Chioldi, Watson, Rusche and Nelson.

Next followed a note perfect rendition of "Mira, o Norma" from Bellini's opera "Norma." This was expertly sung by Guberman and Arky. The young ladies were both vocally stunning in this duet.

Chioldi then sang a powerful performance of "Te Deum" from Act One of Puccini's "Tosca." To say that Chioldi would make a perfect Scarpia in this opera is an understatement. The aria was perfectly suited to his voice and his performance was flawless.

"Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's operetta "Candide" is one of the few pieces that crosses over between the operatic and musical theater repertories. It is a difficult piece to sing with a lot of florid coloratura and several high E flats. It also requires a lot of acting ability to pull off. Soprano Gan proved that she has the vocal as well as acting ability and stage presence to do this aria justice.

Valenti returned to the stage with "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from the Lehar operetta "Das Land des L├Ąchlens." This is a favorite piece of Valenti's; he sang it last year in recital at St. Hugh Cathedral, and it fits his voice very well.

As a bonus, the opera chorus and orchestra treated the audience to the holiday classic "Let It Snow." The concert ended with "Make Our Garden Grow" from Bernstein's "Candide." This featured Valenti as Candide and Gan as Cunnegonde. They were joined by the rest of the singers and the chorus for this inspiring and moving finale.

During the concert, Palm Beach Opera offered an Android and iPhone app for the audience to use and follow along. The app featured background information on the pieces as well as bios and photographs of the performers. Social media activity was encouraged during the performance.

This concert was free and was a great way to kick off what promises to be a thrilling season for Palm Beach Opera. Plans are underway for their 2015 Opera at the Waterfront concert next year.

"Opera at the Waterfront" was performed on Dec. 13 at Meyer Amphitheater, 104 Datura Street in West Palm Beach, FL 33401. For information about Palm Beach Opera and to purchase tickets to upcoming events, call 561-833-7888 or visit pbopera.org.

Jack Gardner has been producing theater in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years. He has performed in operas, musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice-over and radio work. Jack lives in South Florida with his three dogs.


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