This worldwide pandemic has served as a reminder to us all that we need to appreciate things while we have them, no matter how fleeting. And on a chilly spring evening this week, one of the things I have a new found appreciation for is the experience of live music. Especially when it’s presented by the outstanding artists of the Baltimore Concert Opera, displaying their talents on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church of Towson, in a short and sweet program of arias and popular tunes.
The Baltimore Concert Opera may be one of the area’s brightest stars…superior vocal talents.
There were 40 plus attendees at this open-air event, all bundled up against the cold wind, or hunkered down in their cars with windows open. They watched while the singers appeared one by one on the crest of a small hill, the lovely church serving as an alfresco backdrop. I love when events get started on time and this one was almost to the minute. After a brief introduction by Julia Cooke, Artistic and General Director of Baltimore Concert Opera, things got underway.
Pianist Joy Schreier lent her considerable skills as one of the most accomplished accompanists in the area. Her support of every vocal selection was absolutely on point and to my ear, without a single missed note.
The concert commenced with the incomparable Christine Lyons. I have written about Ms. Lyons before, and last night’s performance only solidified my opinion that her soprano is a voice for the ages, a beautiful, soaring instrument that recreated her triumphant portrayal of Cio-Cio San singing the aria “Un Bel Di Vedremo” from “Madama Butterfly”by Puccini to perfection. Her acting ability is evident in every passage, and her superb skill at portraying emotions is more than impressive. She also nailed her performances of two disparate selections, “Ah! Je Ris de Me Voi” from “Faust” by Gounod, and a delicately delicious rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Mezzo-Soprano Kate Farrar re-introduced us to one of the most familiar arias, “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen.” With just the right mix of saucy insouciance, she swayed and transfixed the attentive crowd with a sultry rendition that captured the crowd with her rich and velvety timbre. And as good as that was, I think I enjoyed her next piece, “Cruda Sorte” from “L’Italiana in Algeri” by Rossini even more. Ms. Farrar told the story with exceptional acting skill and timing along with that superb voice. And with “Something Wonderful,” the staple from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” her deep, riveting almost contralto evoked memories for me of a childhood favorite performed to perfection.
Rounding out the evening’s entertainment was bass-baritone Harold Wilson. His ability to deep-dive into the lowest registers, with a richness and warmth that was as comforting as it was melodic added just the right balance to the evening’s entertainment. Beginning with “Come Dal Ciel Precipita” from “Macbeth” by Verdi, he was commanding and in charge. His full-bodied singing in “Lyubvi Vyse Vozrasti Pokorni” showed off a rounded, throaty depth, and in the evening’s final performance, his choice of “The Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha” by Leigh and Darion, ended the concert on just the right note.
The Baltimore Concert Opera may be one of the area’s brightest stars in the entertainment firmament of Baltimore. Let’s hope it continues to recover from these difficult past days and is able to offer area audiences even more of these great evenings of superior vocal talents. I, for one, will be eagerly waiting for the next outing.
“BCO in the Open Air” concludes April 23, 021 at Immaculate Conception Church of Towson, 200 Ware Avenue, Towson. The final performance is sold out, however, there is a waitlist available here. Go to Baltimore Concert Opera for more information.