In theory, if not always in practice, all opera singing should sound beautiful. It's practically required when dealing with one specific genre, the early 19th century Italian repertoire known as "bel canto," because that's what it means — "beautiful singing."
The style calls for an evenly produced tone, great technical agility to handle florid passages (known as coloratura), and plenty of expressive personality. Great bel canto singing delivers one of the best thrills in opera.
On Saturday night, Lyric Opera Baltimore will present a concert featuring excerpts from works by the three giants of the bel canto style, Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini, performed by a group of up-and-coming vocal artists. The event is a complement to the company's two staged productions this season ("La Boheme" last fall, "Rigoletto" in May).
"We are trying to continue to garner support for the opera company and build a solid financial future for it, and we hope this concert will help to do that," said Lyric Opera Baltimore artistic director James Harp.
Although there won't be the usual trappings of a night at the opera — no sets or costumes; two pianos, instead of an orchestra — a dash of theatricality is promised for the concert, which will honor Lyric Opera Baltimore patron Mary Mangione for her support of the fledgling company.
Stage director Garnett Bruce, a Peabody Institute faculty member who has worked with major opera companies around the country, has devised a way of linking the program. A clue about that linking device may be found in the evening's curtain-raiser, Rossini's Overture to "William Tell," an opera with the famous scene of a father shooting an apple off his son's head.
"There is a concept in Garnett's staging that involves one single prop, an apple, which will move its way through the entire program," Harp said. "I think the audience will enjoy seeing how the fruit unfolds."
Harp and Concert Artists of Baltimore artistic director Edward Polochick, both accomplished pianists, will play a four-hand arrangement of the "William Tell" Overture by Louis Moreau Gottschalk and then provide keyboard accompaniment for the vocal selections.
Those selections will come primarily from Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (his version of the Cinderella story), "The Barber of Seville" and "The Italian Girl in Algiers." A taste of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" and Bellini's "The Capulets and the Montagues" will also be included.
"Although a lot of bel canto operas are tragic, we are focusing in this particular production on some of the happiest moments," Harp said. "There will be a lot of bubbles and champagne."
Helping to uncork the fun will be soprano Colleen Daly (she sang the role of Musetta in Lyric Opera Baltimore's "Boheme"), baritone Daniel Belcher, and bass Steven Condy, among others.
Two of the young artists in the program have a particularly personal connection to bel canto. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Alek Shrader met in 2007 while in a production of "La Cenerentola" featuring members of the San Francisco Opera's training program.
The sparks generated by Mack's Cinderella and Shrader's Prince Charming lasted beyond the curtain calls. The couple subsequently married.
"I feel really fortunate to have someone as my partner in crime, so to speak, who understands what I'm going through and is absolutely sympathetic," said Shrader, 31, who earned plaudits earlier this season for his singing at the Metropolitan Opera in "The Tempest" by Thomas Ades.
The tenor and his wife share an enthusiasm for bel canto.
"This music just has a spark to it," said Mack, 30, whose credits include a "Barber of Seville" with Pittsburgh Opera. "The fact that we really enjoy singing it is an added bonus."
As for participating in this weekend's bel canto bash in Baltimore, "We are happy to be a part of the rebuilding of this company," Mack said, "happy to do anything we can to help."
If you go
"Bravissimo Bel Canto" will be performed at 8 p.m. April 13 at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets are $35 to $75. Call 410-900-1150 or go to ticketmaster.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun