The folks at Annapolis Opera celebrated the end of tax-filing season and the arrival of spring last weekend with an "Opera Lite" concert featuring tuneful moments from comic operas and operettas. The program was created and conducted by Annapolis Opera artistic director Ronald J. Gretz.
This final concert of the season was a nostalgic diversion and welcome antidote to the weekend news of volcanic eruptions Wall Street investigations. "Opera Lite" audience members were seduced by gorgeous melodies from the pens of Viennese composers Johann Strauss and Franz Lehar, and from Victor Herbert, who began his musical career in Vienna and came to the United States at age 27.
Also on the program was the wit of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan and the melodic genius of opera composer Gioachino Rossini, who was so gifted that he was able to retire at age 37 after writing 30 operas and live comfortably for 40 more years without ever writing another opera.
All of the lightness, frivolity and sparkle required were in place when the program opened with rousing selections from Strauss' "Die Fledermaus," which included a bubbly ensemble version of "Champagne" featuring mezzo-soprano Erika Person, tenor Michael Gallant, sopranos Megan Monaghan and Corinne Winters, baritone Daniel Collins and bass-baritone Stephanos Tsirakoglou.
Artists Winters and Tsirakoglou made a spectacular Annapolis Opera debut in Donizetti's "Quanto amore!" from "L'Elisir d'amore" — an aria where charlatan Dr. Dulcamara (Tsirakoglou) admits to Adina (Winters) that he has sold her friend Nemorino a potion that promises to make women fall in love with him. The program's biographical notes said the Dulcamara role is in Tsirakoglou's repertoire, and he gave it appropriate comic nuance in sonorous tones. Soprano Winters easily matched the bass-baritone in emotion and vocal beauty.
In works by Rossini and Gilbert and Sullivan, Tsirakoglou proved amazingly adept at patter, whether in Italian or English, displaying great vocal agility throughout.
Another striking debut was Monaghan in Victor Herbert's "Art is Calling for Me" from "The Enchantress." This is the aria that says "I want to be a prima donna, donna, donna. To sing on the stage, that's the one life for me." Clearly on her way to becoming a prima donna, Monaghan showed that Annapolis Opera continues to fulfill its mission of discovering the stars of tomorrow.
Tenor Gallant marked his return to Annapolis Opera, where in 2007 he sang the role of Count Almaviva to praise for his "sterling vocal gifts," and later in concerts where he and wife Carla Dirlikov sang memorable arias from "Carmen."
Gallant delivered a delightful "All'idea di quell metallo" from Rossini's "Barber of Seville" with Collins. Gallant also sang a gorgeous "Waltz Dream" from the Oscar Straus operetta of that name, which he recently sang in Philadelphia. Gallant's teaming with Winters in Lehar's "Love, What Has Given You This Magic Power?" became the romantic peak of the evening.
Collins sang an ardent duet with Monaghan in Lehar's "Strings Are Sighing," also known as the "Merry Widow Waltz," igniting romantic sparks while dancing a waltz.
Person sang in Annapolis Opera's "Carmen" in 2008 as Mercedes, and here she proved to be a deft comedienne.
Next on the schedule is the 22nd annual Vocal Competition Finals at 2 p.m. May 16. Eight finalists will compete for prizes from $500 to $2,500. This event is free to the public through a grant awarded by the Helena Foundation.
Custodians of the Helena Foundation James and Sylvia Earl said they will award the grand prize winner a trip to study at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy in July. Information: 410-267-8135.