Verdi Chorus Scores Again
By Steven Lieberman
Anne Marie Ketchum, Music Director and Founding Artistic Director for The Verdi Chorus (now Frank and Merle Strauss Artistic Director), pulled out all the stops for their Spring performances this past Saturday and Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.
To kick-off their 31st season of presenting glorious choruses, arias and ensembles from grand opera, Ms. Ketchum decided on an all Italian program entitled AMORE ITALIANO and chose selections from some of the greatest works ever written for the lyric stage with composers ranging from Donizetti to Leoncavallo, plus Puccini and, of course, Verdi.
The operas included I Lombardi, Un Ballo in Maschera, L'Eliser D'Amore, Turandot, Pagliacci, and La Rondine.
And, as always, the program was accompanied by the brilliant piano virtuosity of Laraine Ann Madden.
What made these concerts even more special was The Verdi Chorus dedicating the performances to out-going president, Thelma Sherman, and starting "The Thelma Sherman Fund." The baton was officially passed to new president, Frank Strauss, also a dedicated, passionate member of the Chorus.
These concerts are also a part of the event "Tribute to Giuseppe Verdi" presented by the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, located in Westwood, and runs through May 28.
Ms. Ketchum also out-did herself by enlisting the services of three highly-accomplished soloists.
The Chorus was joined by guest artist soprano Amanda Squitieri, hailed by Opera News as "One of the most engaging singers of the younger generation," and lauded by the New York Times for her "sensuously lyric soprano" and "her captivating presence." She also recently performed the role of Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro under the baton of Placido Domingo.
Also performing was rising tenor sensation, and Domingo prodigy, Daniel Montenegro who returned to The Verdi Chorus after appearing in Puccini's Turandot at the Hollywood Bowl under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel.
And then there was Metropolitan Opera baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, a Sterling voice who made a welcome return after a recent appearance in Verdi's IL Trovatore, which earned him compliments in Opera News for a "confident, commanding Count di Luna...of robust tone, ardent address, arching phrases and genuine baritonal squillo!"
One of the bright spots of the concert was when MacKenzie belted out "Eri tu" from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. Another bright spot were Montenegro and Squitieri teaming up on "Visione" from Verdi's I Lombardi, "Della crudele Isotta" from Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore, and "Nella dolce carezza" from Puccini's La Rondine. There was a natural chemistry.
The Chorus rose to the occasion for these spring performances. Their relationship, connection and timing with the soloists on every piece on the program were impeccably outstanding. They also out-did themselves. One could sense their growth, development and maturity.
At the conclusion of the concerts was a well-deserved tribute in the reception hall honoring Thelma Sherman. She put her heart and soul into the Chorus for 23 years.
Then everybody was treated to light refreshments and good fellowship.
For more information about their up-coming fall concerts in November, please visit http://www.verdichorus.org.