La Boheme – Chesapeake Concert Opera

BALTIMORE, MD – The bold motto of this Baltimore-based opera company, now midway through its first season, neatly sums up its philosophy: Join us to hear “Singers you won’t be able to afford in 10 years!” The Chesapeake Concert Opera is quickly building a name showcasing young artists whose talent–with a bit of luck and a whole lot of pluck–may just catapult them to the top of their field.

The company’s formula is simple–put together the best singers they can find, lock them in a rehearsal room for a weekend with a talented accompanist, and then unveil the fruits of their labors to the public. To accomplish this, the company heard over 160 auditions last year, with singers coming from as far away as Texas and Illinois hoping to be cast. From that pool, about 30 singers demonstrated the talent, charm, and go-get-it personality required to succeed in such a demanding environment.

This weekend CCO will present its 4th show–a semi-staged version of La Bohème, accompanied by the company’s signature cheeky narration–starring young singers from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. who are ready to put their stamp on these iconic roles. Soprano Christine Kavanagh (Mimi) has been consistently praised by critics for her “silvery, sweetly innocent voice” that “soars easily and warmly.” Legendary baritone Dominic Cossa recently remarked that tenor William Davenport (Rodolfo) “sang [Liszt’s Pace non trovo] about as well as you’re ever going to hear it sung…he reminds me so much of Luciano…so very much.” Yes, folks, that would be Luciano Pavarotti! French and Canadian soprano Chloe Olivia Moore (Musetta) and baritone Kevin Wetzel (Marcello) round out a spirited cast of Bohemians.

Putting together an entire opera in one weekend is a formidable task, but the growing company has proven to be up to the challenge. This is due in part to the dedicated efforts of the founders, themselves singers in their 20s who can relate to the balancing act of holding a challenging day job while cultivating their artistic talents. Soprano Beth Stewart, who has been praised by the Baltimore Sun for a “tonal sheen that carries her expressive phrasing” and baritone Douglas Peters, whose voice has been deemed “rich and meaty with good vocal resonance”, are the driving force behind this shoestring operation. The pair are coming of vocal age in a time when area arts organizations like the Baltimore Opera and the Master Chorale of Washington have crumbled; rather than bide their time and wait for the industry to turn itself around, Stewart and Peters decided to create their own performance opportunities. This “take the bull by the horns” attitude has served the young company well, earning rave reviews from audiences and performers alike.

For the 2010-2011 season, Chesapeake Concert Opera has invited singers to vie for limited audition slots by April 30. To see CCO in action, check out the Bohème performances this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. For an introductory taste, check out clips from CCO’s recent production of La traviata at www.youtube.com/user/ChesapeakeConcertOp.

More information on performances, artists, and opportunities can be found atwww.chesapeakeconcertopera.org.