Open-air opera sparkles in Redlands

by Natalie Mann, LIster Reviewer

Opera Under the Stars has a long tradition at the Redlands Bowl, which is the longest continuously running summer festival in the US. The program on Friday, August 11 was an auspicious evening, as the master of ceremonies Nathan Gonzales announced it was the Bowl’s2,222nd performance. The warm evening brought out many opera lovers of all ages to enjoy timeless classics under starry sky.

The San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Frank Fetta, played a varied program that opened with the ebullient Overture from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Maestro Fetta gave a brief welcome and invited baritone Patrick Blackwell to the stage. Blackwell, a familiar face at LA Opera, brought fiery passion to Banquo’s Aria from Verdi’s MacBeth. He would also present a work from The Tales of Hoffman later in this act.

Jennifer Lindsay, Erin Wood, Patrick Blackwell, Candace Bogan, Christian Quillici

Changing moods, native Californian Emma McDermott sang the luscious soprano aria “Il est doux, il est bon” from Massenet’s Herodiade. The work was complimented by Verdi’s “Quando le serre al placido” from Luisa Miller, as sung by tenor Christian Quillici. These works are often left out of the mainstream arias performed, and the crowd shared its delight through hearty applause in hearing them performed.

Erin Wood, a dramatic soprano familiar to the Chicago Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera, sang a spine-tingling portrayal of Wagner’s “Dich teure halle” from Tannhäuser. This made a fine paring with Candace Bogan’s “Ritorna Vincitor” from Verdi’s Aida. The orchestra swelled to support these two voices under the Maestro’s baton.

The first half of the program was rounded out with more Verdi, this time from the timeless classic, La Traviata. Jennifer Lindsay and Quillici sang the final scene from Act I, with a fiery and luscious sound resonating from Ms. Lindsay during the “Sempre Libra.”

After the intermission, Mr. Blackwell and Ms. Wood returned to portray the touching scene from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera with “A tal colpa” and “Morro, ma prima ingrazia.” Both of their voices and dramatic temperaments were well-suited for the roles.

It’s hard to have an opera highlights program without the audience favorite “O mio babbino caro”, from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Ms. McDermott and Maestro Fetta did not disappoint the audience. This pared well with the touching “O patria mia” from Aida, as sung by Ms. Lindsay.

Quillici’s pensive “Vesti la giubba” from the beloved Pagliacci made a nice moment. Erin Wood shared one more heart-thumping aria from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino as she sang “Pace, pace O mio Dio.”

The mood of the program became more relaxed as Ms. Bogen sang “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The crowd was moved by the impassioned rendition of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha as sung by Patrick Blackwell.

The full and exciting program finished with the Brindisi from La Traviata, tipping a hat back to the close of the first act, and also giving all the fine singers one more bow on stage. All the singers were in fine form and brought wonderful sound and dramatic pacing to the program. The audience enjoyed seeing the opera stars under the stars.



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