Soirée at the Gables kicks off an elegant new season for Redlands Opera Theatre

To kick off their 2015-16 Season, Redlands Opera Theatre held its 4th Annual Gala and Fundraiser on September 12, in Dangermond Hall at the beautiful Mission Gables Bowl House – the newly renovated, historical home which overlooks the Redlands Bowl. Seating was provided at round tables, elegantly set for guests to dine while listening to the live music; tables in the next room were filled with Silent Auction items and a lavish buffet.

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Christa Stevens, Music Director

ROT Music Director, Christa Stevens welcomed the audience and gave a glimpse of events to come, including “Bach at Union Station” commemorating Bach’s birthday, and “Opera at Noon” children’s educational programs, sponsored by Kiwanis of Redlands. Christina Jensen, Resident Stage Director and Dramaturge, was the Mistress of Ceremonies, introducing their diabolical theme for the year: Night Music in the Devil’s Domain, or Satan’s Salon; and the four productions which had been chosen to fit that theme: Gounod’s Faust; Menotti’s Amahl & the Night Visitors; Songs of the Eventide; and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. With a saucy, scripted monologue, Ms. Jensen renamed herself “Lola” after the female lead in Damn Yankees (a retelling of the Faust legend) and entertained the crowd at the beginnings and ends of three short sets.

The program was designed to showcase eight singers in a preview of three of ROT’s upcoming productions: Set I – Gounod’s music, including excerpts from Faust; Set II – Mozart’s music, including excerpts from Don Giovanni; Set III – selected “night music” from opera and Broadway.

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Andrew Bennett, Victoria Fox, Vincent Robles, Philip Luther Nash

Set I began with Andrew Bennett as Roméo and Christa Stevens as Juliette in Gounod’s simple and passionate love duet, Ange Adorable, Mr. Bennett’s easy lyric tenor pairing well with Ms. Stevens’ bell-like soprano. Victoria Fox continued with an excerpt from Faust: Faites-lui mes aveux, in her creamy, elegant mezzo, followed by Ms. Stevens in The Spinning Wheel (Il ne revient pas), a forlorn and beautiful aria also from Faust. Soprano Tiana Dye, who is also the Artistic Director for Redlands Opera Theatre, finished the set, dramatic and confident in Dich Teure Halle.

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Tiana Dye, Artistic Director

Vincent Robles brought a swaggering Don Giovanni to life with a clarion baritone at the top of Set II with Fin ch’han del vino, a patter aria bragging about the list of women the Don intends to seduce or ravage that night. Bold and lustful in his demeanor, he set the stage for the hottest number of the evening, the duet La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni with Ms. Fox joining the Don as a super-sexy Zerlina. Vocally gorgeous together, the duo made sparks fly as they progressed from flirtatious talk to a concrete action plan, barely getting offstage before abandoning themselves to their passions.

Il mio tesoro, Don Ottavio’s aria from Don Giovanni, was lovely in Mr. Bennett’s fine tenor with beautiful sustained phrases and coloratura. Philip Nash’s rich, dark bass shone in an expressive and flowing rendition of In diesen heil’gen Hallen from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and pianist Ed Yarnelle finished the set with a terrific performance of Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23, a piece that begins simply and elegantly and moves through every color and dynamic imaginable, until it concludes in a burst of parallel scales and chromatic octaves.

For the final set, Ms. Dye opened with Io son l’umile ancella from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, dramatically passionate, celebrating the creative spirit. Michael Cruz gave a polished performance of Dei miei bollenti spiriti from Verdi’s La Traviata, capturing the intense agitation of Alfredo’s character and winning over the audience. Ms. Stevens brought us back to the theme of “Night Music” with Moonfall from The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes – an unexpectedly romantic, lyrically chromatic, haunting ballad which fit her vocally like a glove, showing off her range and vocal flexibility.

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Cynthia Leigh

Cynthia Leigh told the story of a mysterious witch of the woods, Vilja, from The Merry Widow by Lehar, with fluid German and a touching sentimentality, finishing with a tender high pianissimo. Mr. Bennett returned to the stage for a clean and satisfying execution of Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Lehar’s Das Land des Lächelns, then went straight on to close the concert with Ms. Leigh in Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from Verdi’s La Traviata, with the entire company in rousing chorus behind them.

The next project for Redlands Opera Theatre will be a production of Gounod’s Faust, starting November 14th, 2015. For more information, go to the company website at www.RedlandsOperaTheatre.com.

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