GALA Review – West Bay Opera starts a tradition?

Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2013 Sara and I thoroughly enjoyed attending the very first West Bay Opera Gala, held at the Menlo-Atherton Center for the Performing Arts – also a first.  In his introductory remarks, General Director José Luis Moscovich said that now-a-days the third repetition of an event establishes a tradition, and he hoped that this was the first of those three.  I heartily agree.

Auditorium at the Menlo-Atherton Center for the Performing Arts; L-inset Maestro José Luis Moscovich; R-inset Sara and the Opera Nut (we had great seats)

The purpose of an opera Gala is two-fold: to raise money for the opera company, and to offer a bonus entertainment for its loyal supporters.  To this end, members and patrons of the company contribute a great deal of time and energy.  Singers, instrumentalists, support crew, and venue are all donated.  If an auction and/or raffle is part of the Gala, all items are donations from neighborhood businesses or individuals.  As a result, all proceeds received from ticket sales and donated items go directly to the opera company’s operations budget.

Although this Gala was a first for West Bay Opera, it was not the first local opera Gala in the Bay Area.  Last month I went to the Lamplighters’ Gala which was fantastic.  They’ve been putting on a brand new show each year in San Francisco for many years, but this was the first time they brought it to Mountain View (and hence the first time I had seen it).  It consisted of a two-act parody of Downton Abbey with original dialogue and songs from Gilbert & Sullivan with original words.  Music was provided by two pianos.

Pocket Opera has put on several Galas in informal venues, featuring a silent auction and a half-dozen or so operatic arias or duets with piano accompaniment and commentary by Donald PippinFremont Opera produced a couple of Galas during it’s all-too-short existence.

L-R: Elisabeth Russ, Delmar McComb, Diana Sintich, Olga Chernisheva, Catherine Cook, Gabriel Manro, Chelsea Hollow, Matthew Lovell

 

The complete program is listed at the end of the review.  However since it will never again be performed as a program, there is no point giving you my opinion of each of the 16 selections.  I was favorably impressed by the singing of every one of the 8 soloists, but I want to mention three sopranos that particularly caught my attention. 

Chelsea Hollow looks on as Maestro José Luis Moscovich applauds the orchestra

 

Chelsea Hollow gave a delightful rendition of Olympia’s Doll Song from Tales of Hoffmann, a role she had covered for WBOpera last year.  Her soprano voice was clear and true singing the nonsense syllables, and her jerky arm, torso, and neck motions fit the role perfectly.

Elisabeth Russ

 

Two other recent soprano understudies also gave outstanding performances.  Like Chelsea in Hoffman, Elisabeth Russ was the understudy for the star Rochelle Bard, in a recent WBOpera production – this time of Lucia di Lammermoor.  She nailed it cold.  And by cold, I mean: she did not have a dramatic entrance in a blood-stained dress; she did not come fresh from previous scenes of being brow-beaten by one man after another – no, she walked on stage in her simple evening dress and did it all with her own voice.  Most impressive.

Diana Sintich and Catherine Cook

 

Finally, Diana Sintich sang two of my favorite  numbers in all opera.  In Act I she teamed with mezzo Catherine Cook in a beautiful rendition of the Barcarole from Tales of Hoffman.  Midway in Act II she did full justice to Desdemona’s Willow Song, having been understudy to Cynthia Clayton in last May’s production of Verdi’s Otello.  Every time I hear that haunting melody I get goose-bumps.  Do you wonder that I rave about WBOpera’s casts?  When sopranos of this quality were only understudies during the regular season!

Speaking of the regular season, you’ve already missed an outstanding performance of Tosca, but there are still tickets available for Elixir of Love (February 14-23) and The Magic Flute (May 23-June 1).  See you there?

 

 

PROGRAM

Opera

Aria

Role

Singer

I Pagliacci

Overture

 

Orchestra

 

E voi piuttosta

Tonio

Gabriel Manro

Carmen

Cigarette Girls

 

Chorus

 

Seguidille

Carmen


Catherine Cook

 Tales of Hoffman

Doll Song

Olympia


Chelsea Hollow

 

Barcarole

Giulietta


Catherine Cook

 

 

Nicklausse

Diana Sintich

Samson & Delilah

Bacchanale

 

Orchestra

Lucia di Lammermoor

Mad Scene

Lucia


Elisabeth Russ

 

 

Raimondo


Matthew Lovell

 

 

Enrico

Gabriel Manro

INTERMISSION

 

 

 

Marriage of Figaro

Overture

 

Orchestra

Orfeo et Euridice

Che farò senza Euridice?


Euridice


Catherine Cook

Madama Butterfly

Un bel di

Butterfly

Olga Chernisheva

 

Flower Duet

Butterfly

Olga Chernisheva

 

 

Suzuki


Catherine Cook

Otello

Willow Song

Desdemona

Diana Sintich

Don Giovanni

La ci darem la mano

Giovanni

Gabriel Manro

 

 

Zerlina


Elisabeth Russ

The Merry Widow

Vilja Song

Hanna

Olga Chernisheva

La Traviata

The Brindisi

Violetta

Olga Chernisheva

 

 

Alfredo

Delmar McComb

 

WEST BAY OPERA           221 Lambert Avenue

Lucie Stern Theatre         1305 Middlefield Road

Palo Alto  CA
  94306       650.424.9999


All photos by Rudi Mui – arrangement and cropping by Philip Hodge.
Note: There was no dress rehearsal, and photography was not allowed during the performance.

 Artistic Direction & Design



General Director: 
José Luis Moscovich

Conductor: 
José Luis Moscovich

Conductor: 
Michael Singher

Stage Director: 
Daniel Witzke *

Chorus Master: Carl Pantle

Lighting Designer: 
Henry Wilen

 Props Designer: 
Shirley Benson

Cast


Mezzo Soprano: 
Catherine Cook

Baritone: 
Gabriel Manro

Soprano: 
Diana Sintich

Soprano: 
Elisabeth Russ

Bass-Baritone: 
Matthew Lovell

Soprano: 
Chelsea Hollow

Soprano: Olga Chernisheva

Tenor: 
Delmar McComb 

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