Beautiful voices beckon in Lyric Opera’s Bravissimo Bel Canto

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Bel Canto – Beautiful Singing.  One would think that operatic arias and beautiful voices were made to go hand-in-hand.  Yet it is said that sometime around 1858, a then long retired Gioacchino Rossini decried what he saw as the decline of Italian opera, telling a Parisian friend, “Alas for us, we have lost our bel canto.”

Luckily, Rossini never had to suffer through an episode of American Idol.  Still, students of opera recognize the shift that took place in the middle of the nineteenth century from the light, melodic music Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini employed to the heavier, more dramatic tones of Verdi and Wagner.

The lilting music of Italian opera is almost universally adored.  But for those who are not into corseted sopranos or codpiece costumed tenors, the Lyric Opera will be staging an evening of nothing but beautiful voices.

Bravissimo Bel Canto: A Gala Concert in honor of Mary Mangione and Family will feature the Baltimore debuts of Bel Canto specialists mezzo soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Alek Shrader, along with baritones Daniel Belcher and Steven Condy.  The foursome will be accompanied by pianists James Harp and Edward Polochick; both renowned as masters of the keyboard.

The operas of Rossini have figured prominently in Daniela Mack’s career.  Mack garnered critical acclaim for her performance of Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Pittsburgh Opera.  She made both her character and house debuts as Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri at Opéra National de Bordeaux and Florentine Opera.  And at Opera Colorado she sang Angelina in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s celebrated production of  La Cenerentola.

Alek Shrader made his house debut this season at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Ferdinand in Ades’ acclaimed The Tempest.  Later he returned to sing Almaviva in the English version of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”.  Shrader closes this current season with his role debut as Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Grammy Award winning baritone Daniel Belcher has performed his 50-role repertoire all over the world.  Belcher first came to international attention in 2004 creating the role of Prior Walter in Peter Eötvös’ Angels in America for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.  More recently, Belcher created the role of Robert Kennedy in Robin de Raaff’s Waiting for Miss Monroe.  Other roles include Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Schaunard in La Boheme.

No stranger to the works of Rossini, Baritone Steven Condy has built a solid reputation.  Admired for his refined voice, as well as for his natural acting ability, Condy has portrayed the title role of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.  Additional title roles include Verdi’s Falstaff and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.  Notably, during the 2008-2009 season, Condy portrayed Betto in Gianni Schicchi in a new production with the Los Angeles Opera under the direction of Woody Allen.

Enjoying the vocal glories of the Bel Canto period with four dynamic artists – all making their Baltimore debuts – would certainly delight even the disenchanted Rossini.  And as any child could tell you, bringing exciting new talent to the stage will always make for a memorable evening.

Lyric Opera of Baltimore presents Bravissimo Bel Canto: A Gala Concert in honor of Mary Mangione and Family, Saturday, April 13 at 8:00 p.m.  at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric (110 West Mount Royal Avenue Baltimore.)

Sung in Italian with English surtitles, Bravissimo Bel Canto is the second production in this year’s Lyric Grand Opera season and will be followed in May with a full scale production of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi. Tickets and other information about productions of The Lyric Opera may be found here.

Editors note: Biographical information for this story comes from the artists’ websites.

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