It was Mozart opera afternoon as the Carmel Music Society brought Opera San Jose (OSJ) back to Sunset Center for a reengagement. The singers consisted of sopranos Isabella Ivey and Chloe Smart, mezzo Lisa Chavez, tenors Michael Boley and Kirk Dougherty and baritones Silas Elash and Matthew Hanscom. Accompanying the troupe in a non-singing capacity, but super important to the event, were OSJ’s General Director Larry Hancock, whose narration fed us information about the operas and arias we were to be hearing, plus very fine pianist Veronika Agranov-Dafoe, who played a bazillion notes and made them sound like an orchestra.
Since there were no supertitles and the texts were in Italian and German, you really had to be somewhat of an opera buff to understand each aria and place it into the context of its dramatic framework. Hancock told an interesting story about visiting the Vatican as a young man and viewing Michelangelo’s La Pietá for the first time. This magnificent sculpture was not at that time encased in plastic but could be viewed at close proximity from several different perspectives. He mentioned that seeing La Pietá in this multi-perspective context was totally unlike seeing it from a distance, in a one-dimensional photo, or worse in a series of photos showing only details of the sculpture.
Although the charming patter by Hancock gave us useful and entertaining information about each of the operas featured in the concert, hearing the arias out of context still amounted to seeing isolated details without the dramatic continuity needed to properly understand and enjoy each aria. Hancock is a gifted lecturer who is totally passionate about any subject of which he speaks, and, like our favorite Dramaturge David Gordon, can come up with some very surprising information — did you know that Bach and Handel were both eventually blinded by the same surgeon in botched cataract operations? I didn’t.
That said, we heard some fine singing of some lovely arias from Don Giovanni, the Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte and the Magic Flute. Kirk Dougherty put lots of feeling into Don Ottavio’s aria Il mi tesoro, Isabella Ivy was impressive in Donna Anna’s aria Non mi dir, and it was a pleasure to hear Matthew Hansom and Chloe Smart in the sparkling duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina, La ci darem la mano.
In the Marriage of Figaro I found myself admiring the dramatic skills of Silas Elash in La vendetta and Matthew Hansom in Hai gia vita and Non piu andrai. The only thing I missed was an opportunity to hear Cherubino’s aria, Voi che sapete, and I wondered why mezzo Lisa Chavez didn’t include it with the other arias from Figaro.
Cosi fan tutte’s high point for me was Isabella Ivy’s vigorous and powerful aria Come scoglio, which was a preview of what we were to hear from her in the Queen of the Night’s aria, Der Hölle Rache, which brought shouts of “Brava!” from the audience.