The Cape Cod Opera celebrated its 15th anniversary last Sunday with a gala concert at the Tilden Arts Center, at Cape Cod Community College, featuring seven outstanding vocalists performing 20 works from 12 of the company’s past productions, as well as a preview of the opera’s summer production, Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.”
Featured were tenor Ray Bauwens, coloratura soprano Sarah Callinan, soprano Diana Toscano, baritone John Whittlesey, tenor Gregory Zavaracky, mezzo-soprano Beth MacLeod Larget, and baritone Paul Soper. All were accompanied by Lucy Banner on piano.
Though the event was celebrating the company’s move from concert operas (individual arias and opera excerpts) to fully staged operas, the afternoon’s concert opera was a fitting tribute to the vocalists, the operas, and the company.
There was plenty of variety, both in operas selected and in their presentation, and the result warmed the hearts of both opera lovers and those for whom the concert was a enticing introduction 13 classic operas.
The concert opened in with Gregory Zavracky and Sarah Callinan singing the famous drinking song duet “Libiamo” from “La Traviata” by Verdi. The other five vocalists served as the chorus, making this a very high-spirited opening.
Zavracky and Callinan teamed up later for the lovely and amusing “I am a dutiful wife,” from “The Merry Widow” by Franz Lehár.
Alone, Callinan sang “O mio babbino caro” from “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini, one of my favorite arias. Callinan’s version was very beautiful, her voice almost echoing itself. She also performed “Caro nome,” from “Rigoletto” by Verdi, singing all the high and acrobatic notes with apparent ease.
Zavracky also sang “A wand’ring minstrel I” from “The Mikado,” which was very engaging.
Paul Soper sang a deeply moving “Tanzlied” from “Die Tote Stadt,” during which Callinan’s haunting voice could be heard from the balcony, a lovely touch. Alone, he offered “Dear Boy” from “Candide,” adding humorous vocal and visual touches.
John Whittlesey’s fine baritone voice was heard in “Hai gia vinta la causa” from “The Marriage of Figaro,” and “Votre toast” from “Carmen,” in which he was joined by the company.
Beth McLeod Largent sang a flowing “Non so piu” from “The Marriage of Figaro” and an enchanting “Habanera” from “Carmen.”
Diana Toscano’s big voice was wonderful for “Un bel di vedremo” from “Madame Butterfly “ by Puccini, and her “Vissi d’arte” from “Tosca” by Puccini was glorious.
Ray Bauwens has a magnificent voice, full of emotion and drama. He sang “Vesti la giubba” from “Pagiacci” by Leoncavallo and “Lucevan de stele” from “Tosca,” as well as a duet with Toscano, and another with Whittlesey, all with lots of feeling.
To end the first act, Bauwens, MacLeod, Whittlesey, and Callinan joined forces for an impressive “Quartet,” from “Rigoletto,” especially enjoyable when all four were singing against each other.
The same group, minus Bauwens, sang a tender and peaceful “Soave sia il vento” from “Cosi fan Tutte” by Mozart in the second act.
The concert ended with all seven singing “Make Our Garden Grow” from “Candide,” a marriage proposal from Zavracky’s character to “Callinan’s, and a fitting sentiment for the opera company: to grow and prosper together.
Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” based on the novel of the same name by Voltaire, will be performed by the Cape Cod Opera on Sunday, July 31, at 3 PM, and Monday, August 1, at 8 PM, at the Tilden Arts Center. Visit www.capecodopera.org or call 508-945-9274 for more information.