The Redlands Opera Theatre event, entitled “Mozart Vignettes and Arias,” was a truly enjoyable experience on Sunday, February 23. Held in the sanctuary of the Redlands First United Methodist Church, the space features brick walls and high ceilings, yet attendees were still fairly close to the musicians, allowing the audience to feel the music on an intimate level. The singers, too, commented that the architecture made for a wonderful performing experience.
The program was divided into sections around five of Mozart’s most beloved operas: The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, and Cosi fan tutte. Each set included a few gems from each masterwork, and the printed program offered helpful descriptions of the basic plot behind each piece, so the audience could keep up with the action. The performance was exceptional throughout, as there wasn’t a ho-hum singer in the bunch. But here are a few notes about the high points, in no particular order:
Tenor Kyle Patterson started the program with ‘Dies Bildnis’ from The Magic Flute, projecting a strong and very comfortable musical talent. He was also quite heroic as the vengeful Don Ottavio in a later aria from Don Giovanni.
E. Scott Levin, has a wonderful baritone voice and strong comedic timing, which he put to good use with Leporello’s ‘List Aria’ from Don Giovanni as well as the iconic discovery duet with Papagena (Christa Stevens) from The Magic Flute. Stevens also shone in another role from Flute, with Pamina’s heartfelt ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’.
Patrick Blackwell, a powerful bass-baritone, was charming and seductive as the Don, chasing Zerlina in ‘La ci darem’, and powerful as the Count in Le Nozze. Blackwell is currently making his Los Angeles Opera debut in Billy Budd, and impressed us with a fullness and warmth throughout his range.
The Zerlina being chased was played by mezzo Aumna Iqbal, whose voice has a deep, full quality as well as lovely higher notes. She acted her parts well during her dramatic arias, and showed elegance as Cherubino with Non so più.
Sarah Beaty‘s light voice has a surprisingly large sound, strong and lovely, all of which served her well in the Three Ladies’ ensemble from Flute and in the “bon voyage” trio, ‘Soave sia il vento’, from Cosi.
Karen Hogle Brown was amazing, with a very clean and accurate performance and a poised approach to the music. Although she was only available to perform in the first half of the program, her aria as the Queen of the Night was unforgettable.
Cynthia Leigh was very dramatic and convincing as Konstanze in Seraglio‘s ‘Martern aller arten’, a challenging aria that is one of the best known of the opera. She performed it with great flair and passion, and was then joined by Patterson for the duet with Belmonte, ‘Welch ein Geschick!’
Tiana Dye‘s voice was a pleasure to hear again, with a sound that is full and clear in the Countess’ aria from Le Nozze, ‘Porgi amor’. She was joined by her ROT co-founder, Christa Stevens, for the ‘Sull’aria’ duettino, in which the Countess dictates a letter for Susanna.
Ariel Pisturino sings with an abundance of joy and confidence, and kicked off the Cosi section with a beautiful ‘Ah guarda sorella’, then joined Beaty and Blackwell in the aforementioned ‘Soave sia il vento’.
Holding it all together was Dr. Ed Yarnelle: he is quite the pianist, bringing the sound of the orchestra reduced to the keys under his fingers. He was all over the keyboard without missing a beat. His keen sense of collaboration supported the singers wonderfully. As he joked, “if it’s Mozart, it’s MANY NOTES.”
This was an enjoyable evening of opera highlights, and we appreciated the opportunity to hear the amazing talent of so many SoCal opera singers. It was ROT’s best yet.