Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Raw Talent

May 22, 2010

from l-r: José Adán Pérez, Yohan Hi, Hak Soo Kim, Ronnita Nicole Miller, Danielle Walker, Erika Wueshner, Placido Domingo, and Erica Brookhyser
Photo: mine 2010

Placido Domingo is back in town this weekend leading up to his performances as Siegmund in L.A. Opera’s new Ring Cycle starting on May 29th. But before attending to that business, he had another high profile gig for LAO on Thursday and Friday at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica where he hosted and conducted the L.A. Opera Orchestra in a recital featuring the many talented young artists of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artists program. The show was dedicated to the late and well-loved music patron Flora L. Thornton and was attended by a number of dignitaries including L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. With so many big names in the sold-out audience and the most famous living name in classical music on the podium, it wasn’t surprising that the eight vocalists in the young artist program seemed somewhat nervous as things got underway.

The program’s first half consisted of a grab bag of opera showpieces. Erika Wueshner sang Elsa’s “Einsam in Trüben Tagen” for starters and was then joined by mezzo-soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller for the Barcarolle from Hoffmann. The tension has relaxed a bit by the end of the first half when the same pair delivered “Mira, o Norma” of all things. Both vocalists have sizable instruments and were splendid. Miller has had a number of higher profile gigs with LAO and is also appearing as one of the Rhinemaidens in the current Ring cycle performances. Valerie Vinzant and Erica Brookhyser sang the Flower Duet from Lakmé to a very enthusiastic response as well. There were two ensemble bits rounding out the first half including “Mir ist so wunderbar” from Fidelio and the Act I sextet from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Both groupings featured great moments for some of the males in the program including bass-baritone Yohan Hi and tenor Hak Soo Kim.

The second half of the evening featured zarzuela arias and ensembles of various stripes and the singers noticeably relaxed and had more fun with these pieces. Most notable was the best four minutes of singing the whole night, which belonged to baritone José Adán Pérez. He sang “Amor vida de mi vida” from Torroba’s Maravilla with the kind of expression that made it feel like he was producing all of the sound, both orchestral and vocal, on stage. If vocal performance in opera is about communicating beyond the meaning of the spoken word, Pérez proved he is capable of much greater things. The evening concluded with Danielle Walker and Hak Soo Kim leading the rest of the ensemble, including four young singers from Washington National Opera’s young singers program, in Verdi’s “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” from La Traviata. Perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of the performance was getting to see Domingo work directly with these young singers outside of a competition format. It was a lovely showcase that the company should do more of.

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I was there, and it was truly amazing. Working with opera singers as a career, I can easily say that there were no nerves at all. And that Ms. Miller stole the show. What a special voice.
Sounds great, I love these types of evenings, wish I was there.
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