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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016 1 year ago

A whale of a gala by Opera Orlando

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The Opera's first gala was on March 19
by: Louis Roney Staff Writer

Opera Orlando is a new company formed by people who know and love opera, and there are scads of folks cheering them on. A strong opera company is a mainstay of the cultural life in many a city, and by its very presence can lend muscle to all other cultural affairs. The Opera’s first gala on March 19 was a special salute to Bryce L. West, and the evening’s distinguished guest was the Honorable U.S. Rep. John Mica.

On Saturday evening, Opera Orlando introduced itself as a purveyor of musical delights, and gave us simultaneously a taste of bounteous goodies to come.

As a professional operatic tenor of some 35 years in the U.S. and Europe, I began my singing career with the New York Philharmonic and conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, singing as Cavaradossi in “Tosca” opposite Eleanor Steber. From there I went on to perform opera in 11 countries.

I give you these credentials simply to suggest to you that I might know a bit about opera. In my opinion the four voices who sang at the Opera Orlando gala in the Grand Bohemian Hotel ballroom were excellent indeed. When I heard the first notes of tenor Cody Austin, I breathed easier — the tenor is usually the weak spot, not the strong vocal talent that Austin displays. Most opera companies are surely better when they have at least a quartet of first-raters on their roster. Megan Weston’s charming soprano was reassuring as she sang “Je Veux Vivre” from Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette.”

Baritone Gabriel Preisser and mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider contributed a well-sung animated duet “Dunque Io Son” from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

Crider flirted while walking among the audience singing a pleasingly cutesy “Habanera” from “Carmen.” Austin showed a fine ringing high-B natural in “La Donna e Mobile” from “Rigoletto” — high notes he’s got! The quartet sang the “Brindisi” from “Traviata” and the great final quartet “Bella Figlia dell'Amore” from “Rigoletto.” The evening’s special piano artist was Michael Fennelly, who performed the music of Chopin and Gershwin and accompanied the singers. The audience was pleased to learn that Opera Orlando will bring in the 2016-17 season: “The Student Prince,” “Don Pasquale,” “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” and “Don Giovanni.” I am happy to be the bearer of all this good news!

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