Culver City Observer -

Verdi Chorus Presents Outstanding Spring Performance

 


There was song and dance as The Verdi Chorus took the stage for their spring performances this past weekend at the acoustically-sound First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.

This is the chorus' 33rd year of showcasing glorious operatic repertoire and continues to be one of the jewels of the Los Angeles opera scene.

The Chorus showed the audience why as they presented two flawless performances that were themed "Italian Passions."

Before the show began, chorus president Frank Strauss spoke about Ray Madden. The concerts were in memoriam to him, a long-time member of the chorus who passed away last year.

He was one of the gears that made the chorus go. Two other fallen chorus members, Lynne Arkin and Diane Armstrong, were also acknowledged by Strauss for their contributions to the chorus. They are all sorely missed as all three were key variables to the success of the chorus.

The concert was again led by founding artistic director/conductor Anne Marie Ketchum who has rocketed the chorus to the next dimension.

Kudos also go to long-time, Julliard-trained accompanist, the indefatigable Laraine Ann Madden, who makes the piano sound like a symphony. She is carrying the torch for her husband, Ray.

An internationally-renowned triumvirate of soloists performed, led by the sensational soprano Amanda Squitieri. Joining her was tenor Todd Wilander and baritone Babatunde Akinboboye (a former Verdi Chorus member). Highly-skilled section leaders form the chorus -- "The Walter Fox Singers" -- also joined the soloists on an assortment of songs, along with three apprentice singers who are on scholarship.

The concert included choral pieces and arias from these great operas Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Don Pasquale, Lucia Di Lammermoor, La Boheme, among other significant operas.

Italian Passions was an appropriate title for their program because they performed choral masterpieces from three titans of Italian opera, Italian composers: Verdi, Donizetti, and Puccini.

All three gifted composers influenced and inspired their successors and proceeded to enlarge the Italian opera form.

Verdi and Donizetti were featured in the first half of the program, while Puccini dominated the second.

Of the many bright spots during the the course of the well-rounded and challenging program, here are a few.

Ms. Ketchum kicked-off the concert with "Va, pensiero," the Verdi Chorus signature piece composed by their namesake. The chorus did not disappoint as they sang it impeccably and with passion. Akinboboye and his Sterling voice capably performed "Bella sic come un angelo" from Don Pasquale by Donizetti, which followed Wilander's respectable rendition of "Di tu se fedele" from Un Ballo In Maschera by Verdi.

But it was Squitieri who stole the show. She lit up the stage with her presence and transcendent voice. And a fine actress.

Of all of the solos and ensembles she performed, she was most animated during the Act II Excerpts from La Boheme by Puccini. That could be her signature role.

Then, Wilander and Akinboboye gave a Sterling rendition of the famous duet, "In un coupe?"

The chorus also gave a moving and heartfelt rendition of the "Humming Chorus" from Madama Butterfly by Puccini.

Also worth mentioning was the performance of the Sextet: "Chi me frena in tal moment?" from Lucia Di Lammermoor by Donizetti, a popular crowd-favorite.

The three soloists were joined by section leaders Joseph Garate, Laura Liebreich-Johnson and Carson Gilmore, along with the chorus. And other talented section leaders -- David Childs, Thomas Hollow, Bill Ketchum, Gilmore, and the Men's Chorus -- supporting Akinboboye, delivered a pleasing interpretation of "Che faranno i vecchi mies" from La Fanciulla Del West by Puccini.

Ms. Ketchum wisely chose pieces of La Rondine by Puccini to close out the show.

After a standing ovation that followed each and every member of the chorus off the stage, a symphony of bravos, flowers delivered to the right people, the opera lovers were then treated to the traditional post-concert meet & greet with refreshments in the hall next to the sanctuary.

For more information about their up-coming 2016 fall concerts, please visit http://www.verdichorus.org.

 

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