Baltimore Concert Opera’s Triumphant Cenerentola
La Bonta Trionfi – The Goodness Triumphs
Baltimore, MD - Baltimore City is a town in which many of the perceived community characteristics are derived from the popular HBO series The Wire. For that reason, it is especially heartening to see people turn out for the story of goodness and purity prevailing that is magnificently told in Gioachino Rossini’s version of Cinderella. One step inside the splendid Garrett-Jacobs venue, in the heart of Baltimore’s arts district, confirms that you are far from the pessimism that some would have you believe defines Baltimore City. Surely, Baltimore Concert Opera is actively working against those stereotypes by investing in good community building, good humor, and good musicianship, which was on display at Friday night’s production of La Cenerentola conducted by Phillip Collister.
Baltimore Concert Opera is in the market of building Baltimore’s opera vocabulary. When you love the art form as much as the board and creative staff of BCO do, you cherish and nurture it, and encourage it to grow. Many of them have been committed musicians in the Baltimore opera scene for years. They witnessed the fall of the Baltimore Opera Company only three years ago. They also saw its resurrection as the Lyric Opera Baltimore earlier this season. They understand that opera is about building a community of believers and patrons. BCO is not asking for money without thinking first about why patrons give money. It is about inclusion. BCO is wisely using traditional and contemporary means to build their community. For example, BCO was holding a silent auction of many beautiful items and tickets to Baltimore musical events before the show on Friday. Plus, the program had a message from BCO’s Treasurer and Founding Board Member, David Dimmock, explaining with transparent detail the financial position of the company. That sort of honesty and transparency is not something every company feels comfortable doing but it engages your audience members and makes them informed supporters of your cause. Another particularly deft move; the seat markers had QR codes on the reverse once scanned would display where audience members could meet and socialize with the cast and directors. For these reasons, it is apparent that BCO will be a trusted and respected member of the Baltimore opera scene for time to come.
All of these elements are integral to running the business side of a young opera company. However, the music still reigns. Lucky for us, Baltimore Concert Opera has continued to engage high-quality musicians who perform with integrity. It may have something to do with their live auditions in front of an audience complete with applause meter. In fact, the stunning Angelina, Megan Marino, caught BCO’s ear at their “So You Think You Can Sing?” auditions last season. Rossini’s extensive fioritura writing was no obstacle for Marino on Friday night. Her voice literally bloomed even up to the last il palpitar of the infamous mezzo-soprano aria Nacqui all’affanno…Non più mesta. It is expected in concert opera for the musicians to have the score in front of them and yet, it was a joy to see Marino, like many of her cast-mates, so remarkably prepared that she could step away from the score and add subtle dramatic elements to her performance. To this taste, it would have been more agreeable if the rapid septet at the end of Act I had been performed memorized so as not to be distracted by the flurry of page turning.
Equally important to the success of the production were Marino’s fellow musicians; namely Natalie Conte as Clorinda, Samuel Schultz as Dandini, and Maestro James Harp at the piano. Conte is one of the gems in the Baltimore/D.C. music scene. You can hardly go wrong by attending her performances. Conte is magnanimous on stage and enchants the audience with her silvery, agile, and powerful voice. In from NYC on short notice, comes Samuel Schultz as Dandini with a smile that makes Crest marketers drool. Schultz filled in for colleague, David Krohn, who had taken ill but is expected to perform on Sunday. Schultz used his expressive face and rich vocal tone to great effect, especially during the crowd-pleasing Come un’ape ne’ giorni d’aprile. Finally, a word on Maestro Harp: the musicians in the cast were fortunate to work with such a skilled collaborative artist at the piano. He often uses his fine and nuanced playing to make the instrument sound like another voice to blend with those on the stage.
At a time in this world when beauty and purity can often be damaged and undermined, I am constantly reminded that we can be revolutionary in our own way, as musicians. It is our duty to bring splendor and magnificence to what may be a downtrodden community. Therefore, when Angelina sings, “Non più mesta”, it is a call to us. No more do we have to languish. We can laugh, sing, and have fun. Fortunately, that is what Baltimore Concert Opera is offering us with this production – a chance to enjoy. They are also offering us the chance to belong and be patrons of this art form that we all cherish.