Culver City Observer -

Verdi Chorus Is Superb as Usual


Not only did the Verdi Chorus present their spring concerts entitled "All's Fair in Love and War," but they also presented the inaugural and long-awaited concerts featuring The Walter Fox Singers, thirteen section leaders that were given the opportunity to showcase their talent in a show called "A Salute To Young Love."

Both presentations were a smashing success and held at the acoustically-sound First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.

Their Founding Artistic Director/Conductor Anne Marie Ketchum and Julliard-trained piano accompanist Laraine Ann Madden fashioned the first half of the "All's Fair" program with choral numbers and arias of Vincenzo Bellini's La Sonnambula, I Puritani, and Act I and the finale of Act II from Norma.

The second half began with the famous baritone prologue of Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, followed by the choral opening in which the tenor protagonist welcomes the crowd. Then the duet for Nedda and her secret lover Silvio which has become an audience favorite.

The concerts concluded with the music of Mascagni and his beloved Cavalleria Rusticana with it's choral opening and crowned the performance with the popular "Easter Chorus."

Three gifted internationally-known soloists made an appearance: audience-favorites soprano Shana Blake Hill and baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez, with tenor Todd Wilander also returning. Hill had recent successes with Cincinnati Opera’s production of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazones and her latest recording appears on the Naxos label with a performance of Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng’s latest work for soprano and orchestra The Phoenix performed with the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz. She also recently debuted the same work with the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Charles Dutoit.

Wilander was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and made his Met debut in their most recent production of Lucia di Lammermoor and returned for Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Beppe in I Pagliacci. He has made a specialty of bel canto repertory as the Duke in Rigoletto and Edgardo in Lucia, both of which he has sung with the New York City Opera.

Hill sang famously and with grace on all of her songs, especially "Casta Diva" from Norma by Bellini and "Silvio! A quest' ora," the duet with Gomez from Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.

Gomez nailed all of his solo pieces, especially the "Prologue" from Pagliacci and "Il cavallo scalpita" from Cavalleria Rusticana.

And Wilander also shined brightly, particularly during his renditions of "Son qua!" from Pagliacci and "Mamma, quell vino e generoso" from Cavalleria Rusticana.

Kudos also goes out to Madden for her fine piano performance and her solo, playing "Intermezzo" from Cavalleria Rusticana very beautifully.

And her collaboration with The Walter Fox Singers was outstanding.

The Walter Fox Singers, named in memory of a long-time chorus and board member, are hired as section leaders and rehearsal coaches. They are given opportunities to perform as featured singers at concerts and perform on occasion independently of the full chorus, serving as a showcase and as ambassadors for The Verdi Chorus. Some of the venues they have appeared at are Annenberg Beach House, The Broad Stage, Huntington Library, and Nixon Library.

The Walter Fox Singers concerts was the brainchild of Ketchum, and is something she has wanted to do for a long time.

For these concerts, Ketchum asked each singer to tell her what they each would like to sing and she took that list of favorites and created a great program which was adored by all audience members. It was a mix of familiar favorites and some gems that are less-often sung.

The singers are: Dejuan Carlos, Dominic Delzompo, Joseph Garate, Carson Gilmore, Vanessa Hulme, Christopher Hunter, Laura Liebreich-Johnson, Robert Norman, Mauricio A. Palma II, Anne-Marie Reyes, Trisha Rivera, Sarah Salazar, and Judy Tran. Each singer did not disappoint and rose to the occasion, bringing the best voices they had.

The entire program was extremely palatable and included opera and broadway numbers.

Some of the bright spots of many were Norman's humorous rendition of "Jour et nuit" from The Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach; Gilmore as the toreador, singing "Votre toast" from Carmen by Bizet; Hulme and Rivera singing the duet "Ah, guarda sorella" from Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart; Garate singing with great resonance "Flor Roja" from Los Gavilanes by Guerrero; Palma as the servant Leporello singing "Madamina, il catalogo e questo" from Don Giovanni by Mozart; and Hunter and Salazar acting and singing the scene "If I loved You" from South Pacific by Rodgers.

Other notable songs were the Liebreich-Johnson and Reyes duet "Sous le dome epais" from Lakme by Delibes; the sultry performance of Tran singing "Habanera" from Carmen; and the funny "Life is Happiness Indeed" from Candide by Bernstein.

Ketchum was wise to begin the concerts with "Libiamo" from La Traviata by Verdi and conclude with "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide. Both hugely popular choral pieces. She also surprised the audience by joining in on the encore to conclude the concert.

The singers left the stage to a standing ovation and one could sense that there will be more Walter Fox Singers performances in the future.


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