The Opera Buffs are an unusual gem in the Los Angeles crown, and oh, how much they do for emerging singers! This small, passionate non-profit raises money to DIRECTLY support young opera singers, dispensing mini-grants to cover the wide variety of expenses that come with a burgeoning career: travel, gowns and tuxedos, lessons and coaching, and a variety of other needs as they arise.
We got to share one of the curated experiences from “the Buffs” on June 3rd, as an enthusiastic crowd gathered in Hancock Park for a fairly traditional salon, designed to recruit new members. With a balanced selection of favorite arias and diets, soprano Vincentia Geraldine, baritone Jared Jones, pianist Brent McMunn and mezzo/emcee Suzanna Guzmán (pictured in this post’s header) offered light entertainment, pleasing music and plenty of laughs. With lavish traditional hors d’oeuvres provided by Jay Galbraith and the Opera Buffs board, and the stately surroundings as we were welcomed to the home of Anne Combs, it was all just what a good salon should be. Here’s an excerpt:
Ms. Geraldine’s sparkling coloratura voice is accompanied by a big smile, engaging acting and heaps of charm. She makes Ophelia’s mad scene from Thomas’ Hamlet look facile, though it is far from an easy piece. She is quite in charge of her lower range, as well, shoring up the warmth of tone and making her fioritura all the more appealing.
Jared Jones is the rare bari who seems exceptionally comfortable in his skin: he doesn’t need to press his upper notes to show off his tenorness, but his low notes aren’t artificially darkened, either. He’s right at home with a warm, silky timbre, and he delivers Italian, sung and spoken, with such fluid, dramatic intention that it appears he must have been singing these pieces all his life.
Together, these two dynamic performers are genuinely appealing and downright fun to watch. The duo was accompanied brilliantly by Mr. McMunn at the piano, who makes florid runs, tricky atmospheric passages and devilish orchestra reductions look simple. With Ms. Guzman sharing stories, “opera moments” and an interactive bolero in her signature irrepressible style, the afternoon was pure fun.
All of this merriment does have a serious purpose, however: membership. Please do consider becoming one of “the Buffs” and supporting this unique program. Opera Buffs has helped to launch dozens of opera careers in the last two-and-a-half decades. It’s one of the best ways to make a real difference for promising young artists.