Verdi Chorus' Concert is a Triumph
November 27, 2014
By Steven Lieberman
The Verdi Chorus triumphed in their presentation of their fall concerts titled “Distant Lands” this past weekend at the acoustically-sound First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.
The chorus is one of the jewels of the Los Angeles opera scene and showed the audience why as they presented two flawless performances.
The concerts honored Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s retirement after 40 years of service to Southern California. Musical director/conductor Anne Marie Ketchum had Yaroslavsky, a big lover and supporter of opera, take the stage before the start of the second half to say a few words.
He said that this was his very first time attending a Verdi Chorus concert, which makes sense due to his former busy political schedule. But now, since he has some time to enjoy his retirement, he picked the perfect concert to attend. One of the very best in the choruses’ 32 years of performing.
Over the years, the chorus has grown and developed to a level of professionalism led by Ketchum and her accomplished, Julliard-trained pianist, Laraine Ann Madden, who always gets a roaring standing ovation and did so at these concerts, especially after she was featured on the renowned “Polovtsian Dances” by Alexander Borodin from his Russian epic, “Prince Igor.” And this composition has also seemed to become one of the choruses’ signature pieces along with “Down in Dear Marsovia” from The Merry Widow.
The Chorus rose to the occasion for these performances. Their relationship, connection and timing with the three highly-accomplished professional soloists on every piece on the program were impeccably outstanding.
Ketchum, again, out-did herself with the careful selection of these soloists and crafting this entertaining program.
Invited back were fan-favorites, soprano Shana Blake Hill and baritone Gregorio Gonzalez. And making his Verdi Chorus debut was tenor Mathew Edwardsen.
Highly skilled section leaders from the chorus also joined the soloists on an assortment of songs. One that stood-out was the duet featuring Hill and Judy Tran Gallego singing “Viens, Mallika…Sous le dome epais” by Leo Delibes from his opera, “Lakme.” Their chemistry and harmony were remarkable in their rendition of this famous “Flower Duet.”
Here are some of the other bright spots in a well-rounded program.
One of Hill’s signature pieces, “Vilia,” from Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow. Her stage presence and the way she carried herself during this number, as well as all the other songs she was featured in, was dramatic. A consummate singer and actor, she has definitely earned the title of Diva after many years on tour with a host of different opera companies.
“Au fond du temple saint” by Georges Bizet from The Pearl Fishers is one of the most romantic and beautiful duets for tenor and baritone ever written and Edwardsen and Gonzalez did not disappoint…they sang it masterfully.
Edwardsen also shined while singing the aria “Vidino divna” by Antonin Dvorak’s “Rusalka.” His sterling voice resonated throughout the church venue.
And Babatunde Akinboboye stole the show with his solo during the choruses’ rendition of “Kvetiny bile,” also from “Rusalka.”
But the biggest surprise of the evening came when Ketchum turned to face the audience during the final song of the concert, “Oh, Come Away” and “I Love You So,” from The Merry Widow and sang and danced with Edwardsen. She still has her vocal chops and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would have been impressed.
After the chorus “danced” off the stage, the audience was treated to The Verdi Choruses traditional post-concert meet & greet with refreshments. Joyfulness filled the hall.
For more information about their up-coming spring concerts in April, please visit http://www.verdichorus.org.