An excellent pianist and three opera stars entertained yet another packed crowd in the Rockport Chamber Music Series on Saturday. The entire afternoon far surpassed my expectations, partly due to stops (before the concert and during intermission) just down the street at a tiny gelato palace (orange with chocolate flakes is highly recommended). And the weather, which determines the view from the hall, materialized glorious, instead of stormy, as predicted.
Tenor Paul Groves deftly and charmingly emceed. The first half delivered on its title, “A Night at the Opera.” His singing was no less deft and beguiling Clearly this Metropolitan Opera tenor is very comfortable on stage. I cannot think of another singer so appreciative and supportive of his colleagues (newcomer soprano Sydney Baedke and veteran Wagner superstar, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung), and pianist Elias Dagher played so effectively that one forgot he was standing in for an orchestra. Groves also snag just beautifully.
The first half featured chestnuts from La Boheme, Samson et Delila, The Tales of Hoffman, the almost too-famous duet (used in myriad commercials) from Lakmé, L’elisir d’amore ‘s tenor mega-hit, “Una Furtiva Lagrima” and, to boot, an aria from Carmen and another from La Traviata when Alfredo meets the irresistible Violetta. Who could resist these heartbreaking operatic characters? Everyone impressed, and the audience loved it all.
I was decidedly not looking forward to the Broadway-based with its famous examples from Bernstein, Sondheim, and Rogers. Hadn’t all of us heard these songs enough? How really wrong I was. Being an opera person, I had been subjected to some horrible renditions of these well-known showtunes by opera singers who had trouble either pronouncing English or getting out of their opera projection and personae. Last night, by contrast, each vocalist magically inhabited each role and put the songs over gorgeously. I was held spellbound, first by Groves’s singing the daylights out of “Maria” from West Side Story. Easily this was the best I’ve ever heard this song, which is saying a lot. Michele DeYoung, with minimal piano accompaniment, was in fabulous voice for “Somewhere.” She then outdid herself in “Send in the Clowns” from A Little night Music.
While most of the songs on both halves had been solos, we also heard some notable duets: DeYoung and Groves broke our hearts with “If I loved you” from Carousel, and the three stars lustily closed in Bernstein’s upbeat “Make Our Garden Grow” (lyrics by Sondheim). Groves and Baedke had opened with a duet from La Traviata that Groves characterized as “flirting through alcohol.” The two women’s sumptuous voices melted together magically in Offenbach’s “Belle nuit, O nuit d’amour” from Tales of Hoffmann, and Delibes’s “Sous le Dome Épais” from Lakmé.
Four extraordinary musicians sang, played, and acted as if their lives depended on it. While we technically heard only half a night at the opera, the opera-free second half melted this grateful heart. Reader, I am embarrassed to admit that tears rolled down my face during most of the second-half songs.