Bel Cantanti Opera was very active producing operas last season and is preparing an ambitious new season as well. Even in the summer, it seems the Montgomery County-based opera company does not rest. This summer it has offered “Summer Sings 1!” and “Summer Sings 2!” On August 20, I had an opportunity to experience “Summer Sings 2!” performed at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Bethesda. I was surprised and delighted that the performances not only included arias from operas, but also melodies from operettas and famous Broadway shows.
…featured pieces of music chosen from a variety of genres, including opera, operetta, and musicals, to the delight of all.
The evening began firmly lodged in the world of opera with two contrasting pieces from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Appropriately enough, a flute solo introduced the character of Papageno. The musical selections segued from Papageno’s singing of his despair to his uniting with his counterpart, Papagena. With a piano accompaniment to the tenor, it sounded more like one of the German Lieder or “art songs” than an opera, providing a new way of listening to “The Magic Flute” as Papageno (a poignant and then boisterous Joshua Bates) gets his Papagena (sung wonderfully at Amanda Densmoor). After more opera, including the well-sung duet (by sopranos Emily Casey and Catherine Wethington) from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” a Latin mood was evoked with Augustin Lara’s “Granada,” sung with virtuosity and yet with ease by singer Cristina Nassif.
Music from American musical theatre followed, including Cole Porter’s melodic “So in Love” from Porter’s Shakespeare-inspired “Kiss Me Kate,” delivered expressively by singer Edrie Means. The piano accompaniment by Bel Cantanti director, Katerina Souvorova, brought out the more melancholic side of the piece, as the character in the musical is “reminiscing about those old feelings.” Background information about how this piece fits into the musical was provided by a narrator, as was the case with other musical selections. Emily Casey, fresh from the world of Mozart opera, then took on exquisitely the Broadway song “Somebody Somewhere” from Frank Loesser’s “The Most Happy Fella.” Allan Palacios Chan emoted an effective “On the Street Where You Live” from Lerner and Loew’s timeless “My Fair Lady.”
The world of operetta was sampled with Victor Herbert’s “The Enchantress” and Franz Lehar’s “Giuditta.” From the former, Catherine Wethington sang “Art Is Calling for Me” beautifully and from the latter, Cristina Nassif performed a passionate “Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss.” The introduction to “Meine Lippen” was marked by a dramatic entrance in a minor key which set the seductive, romantic mood of Lehar’s piece.
In a piece somewhere between the worlds of operetta and musical, Natalie Conte sang a lovely and faced-paced “Love Is Where You Find It.” Hollywood actress and soprano, Kathryn Grayson, once performed this song in the Frank Sinatra film, “The Kissing Bandit.”
This concert featured pieces of music chosen from a variety of genres, including opera, operetta, and musicals, to the delight of all. We look forward to upcoming full opera performances from Bel Cantanti Opera this season, including Bizet’s “Carmen!”
“Summer Sings 2!” was presented on August 20, 2023 by Bel Cantanti Opera at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 5450 Massachussetts Ave., Bethesda, MD. For more information about Bel Cantanti Opera’s upcoming season and concerts, check their website for upcoming announcements.