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Isabella Ivy [Photo courtesy of Opera Las Vegas]
24 Sep 2015

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Isabella Ivy [Photo courtesy of Opera Las Vegas]


The hall was set with tables rather then theater seats so that the audience could enjoy dessert and beverages as they listened. The program featured sopranos Isabella Ivy, Marcie Ley, and Sheronda McKee; mezzo-soprano Erin Gonzalez; tenors John Tsotsoros, and Johar Hernandez-Carr; along with baritones Daniel Sutin and Eugene Richards. Daniel Sutin is a regular at the Metropolitan Opera. Isabella Ivy, formerly an Opera Las Vegas artist, sings at Opera San Jose, while John Tsotsoros sings with various regional U.S. opera companies. The other artists are active at Opera Las Vegas.

Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876), who worked more closely with the composer than any of the others, wrote the texts for five of the operas from which we heard selections: Ernani, Macbeth, Rigoletto, La traviata, and La forza del destino. Termistocle Solera wrote the libretto for Nabucco; Salvatore Cammarano, Il Trovatore; Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier, I vespri Siciliani; Antonio Ghislanzoni, Aida; and fellow composer Arrigo Boito, Falstaff.

Soprano Sheronda McKee opened the program with an aria that showed her fluent high register. She sang Elvira’s plea to her lover Ernani involami (Ernani, fly away with me) with silvery brilliance that put the audience in the mood for the fireworks to come as Lady Macbeth tried to make sure that she and her husband would not be blamed for murdering the king. Marcie Ley was a conniving Lady and Eugene Richards an easily led Macbeth as they sang the dramatic music that described their deadly deed. John Tsotsoros ended the segment with a poignant rendition of Banquo’s lament on the death of his wife and sons.

For a complete change of pace, Erin Gonzalez sang Preziosilla’s thoroughly rousing but rarely heard military recruitment aria from La forza del destino: Al suon del tamburo (At the sound of the drum). Marcie Ley then exchanged her murderous character, Lady Macbeth, for a saintly hermit, and rendered a touching, dynamically alert version of Pace, pace, mio dio (Peace, peace, my God). Daniel Sutin sang the Count’s memorably melodic aria from Il trovatore, Il balen del suo sorriso (The radiance of her smile), with variations of vocal color, spinning tone and a most expressive interpretation. To end the first half of the program, Isabella Ivy and Johar Hernandez-Carr sang of La traviata’s thoughts on love and freedom. They ended with the charming Libiamo ne' lieti calici (Let’s drink from cups of joy), a toast to life and opera in which the whole audience joined in.

After a twenty-minute intermission during which food and drink were served, the entire group of singers entered from the back of the auditorium singing the composers’s beloved Va pensiero, sull’ali dorate, (Go, thought, fly on golden wings) from Nabucco. Then the evil machinations continued. Amneris, Erin Gonzalez, needed to know if her rival for Radames’s affection really was Aida, sung by Sheronda McKee. Amneris offered a bit of pretended friendship until she found it to be true. Then she turned on the slave with a vengeance. The two young artists gave us a short but fascinating drama. After the duet, Isabella Ivy regaled the audience with a lilting rendition of Merce, dilette amiche, (Thank you dear friends), from I vespri Siciliani.

Turning to the darker side, Ley, Gonzalez, Sutin and Richards combined their outstanding abilities in the difficult Giustizia quartet from Don Carlo. Sutin then sang the monumental aria from Rigoletto, Cortigianni, vil razza dannata (Courtiers, vile, cursed rabble), after which Ivy, Gonzalez, Tsotsoros and Richards returned with an impressive version of the quartet from Rigoletto. To end the evening on a happy note, the group presented the closing fugue from Verdi’s last opera and his second comedy, Falstaff. Tutto nel mondo è burla (Everything in the world is a joke).

Pianist Spencer Baker accompanied all of this fabulous music with great musicality while paying a great deal of attention to the needs of the singers. The young artists from Opera Las Vegas all showed abundant promise. Some of them are ready to start their careers now while others still need to do some growing, but all have tremendous talent. This delightful evening of Verdi’s music left the audience in a fine mood and, after a good bit of applause, I could still see the smiles on many faces as people left the building.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Sopranos:Isabella Ivy, Marcie Ley, and Sheronda McKee; Mezzo-soprano: Erin Gonzalez; Tenors: John Tsotsoros, Johar Hernandez-Carr; Baritones, Daniel Sutin, Eugene Richards; Pianist, Spencer Baker; Producer, James Sohre.

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