Culver City Observer -

By Steven Lieberman
Observer Columnist 

Love, Passion and Potions and a Real Wedding Proposal

The Verdi Chorus


November 30, 2017

There was "love," "passion," "potions," a trumpet and even a real wedding proposal as The Verdi Chorus took the stage for their fall performances this past weekend at the acoustically-sound First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica. This is the chorus' 35th year of showcasing glorious operatic repertoire and continues to be one of the jewels of the Los Angeles opera scene and showed the audience why as they presented two flawless performances.

The concerts were in memoriam to Jurate Izokaitis, a long-time member of the chorus who passed away in October. She was generous and giving and was the go-to member for correct French pronunciation. She will be sorely missed.

The concert was 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.

An internationally-renowned triumvirate of soloists performed, led by the sensational soprano Jamie Chamberlin. Joining her was tenor Nathan Granner and baritone Ben Lowe. Highly-skilled section leaders form the chorus -- "The Walter Fox Singers" -- also joined the soloists on an assortment of songs, along with two apprentice singers who are on scholarship.

The concert included choral pieces and arias from these great operas: Giovanna D' Arco, Un Ballo In Maschera, Manon, L'Elisir D' Amore, Lucia Di Lammermoor, The Student Prince, among other significant operas. These choral masterpieces were written by these gifted composers: Verdi, Donizetti, Massenet, Romberg, and Herbert.

Verdi and Donizetti were featured in the first half of the program, while Massenet, Romberg, and Herbert were featured in 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 selections from D'Arco composed by their namesake to showcase the chorus, and they did not disappoint as they sang the three pieces impeccably. Lowe and his sterling voice capably performed "Eri tu" from Maschera by Verdi, followed by Granner and Chamberlin's respectable duet of "Qui di sposa eternal fede…" from Lammermoor by Donizetti.

But it was Chamberlin 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 "Italian Street Song" from Naughty Marietta by Herbert. That could be her signature role.

Granner and Lowe gave an exceptional rendition of the famous duet, "Golden Days" from Student Prince by Romberg. Granner also illuminated the venue during his other solos.

The women's chorus also gave a moving and heartfelt delivery of "One Kiss" from The New Moon by Romberg.

Section leaders, Thomas Hollow, Manfred Anaya, and Raed Saade, also presented the audience with very capable solos.

Also worth mentioning was the performance of the Sextet: "Chi me frena in tal momento?" from Lammermoor by Donizetti, a popular crowd-favorite. The three soloists were joined by section leaders Hollow, Danielle Corella and David Childs, along with the chorus. Another highlight was Lowe, with chorus apprentice Alex Norwick on trumpet singing "Che viol dire.." from D'Amore by Donizetti.

Ms. Ketchum wisely chose "Serenade" by Romberg to close out the show.

But the show didn't end there. Surprising the audience, Granner got down on one knee and proposed to his beloved Chamberlin (she accepted) on stage and it was another happy ending in Hollywood.

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 2018 spring concerts, please visit

They look forward to seeing you there as they continue to bring glorious opera to the community.


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