Operagasm Exclusive Review: Baltimore Concert Opera delivers a vocally bangin’ “Guillaume Tell”
by Rachel Sandler
Baltimore is a small but mighty city when it comes to opera talent. When I was asked to return to BCO to review one of their operas, I knew that the talent would be phenomenal- and I was not disappointed.
BCO is an interesting company. They do exactly as they say in their name: Concert. Opera. Now for opera lovers, this can either be appealing or not. When you take away the lights and the costumes and the spectacle of it all, you are left with music and music alone. It is really up to the audience to envision what’s going on, and up to the singers to transport the audience there with their voices. So audience members need to get ready, because they are going to need to come prepared with some imagination!
This opera was full of standout moments. The first soprano to really strike me was Claudia Chapa as Hedwige. Her rich voice soared through the hall, and she commanded us to watch her every move with her elegant presence. Jemmy, Hedwiges daughter, was played by Sharin Apostolou, who I found to be equally impressive. Her voice was extremely cutting, and I could hear every word from the back of the venue. I loved that she embodied her character at all times, even when turning the pages (each turn seemed to have its own subtext- I was impressed). The two shared a nice chemistry as mother and daughter.
Throughout the opera I had a fun time watching the conductor, Anthony Barrese. You could just tell that he knows this score inside and out, as he commanded the attention of the principal singers with such ease. By no fault of his own, the chorus members had a hard time singing together at points. It was especially hard to understand the text- it is possible they were simply under-rehearsed. But they too had some standout moments, including the finales of both the second and fourth acts. I especially loved the dynamic contrast of the men’s chorus towards the end of act two.
All of the men in the cast had fine voices. William Tell, sung by Sean Anderson, had a strong presence and beautiful legato. Leuthold (Jeffrey Grayson Gates) sang with conversationally clear French and a fresh tone. Melchtal (Hans Tashjian) appeared to be the youngest of the men, but held himself with great poise. Rodolphe (Timothy Augustin), a BCO returner, had a lovely and easy tenor sound. Walter Furst (Jeffrey Beruan) had a dark-chocolatey tone that was especially brilliant in the lower register.
The standout among the men was Matthew Vickers, who played Arnold, a Swiss patriot and suitor of Mathilde. Mr. Vickers showed impressive stamina from start to finish. Just when I thought he didn’t have another high C in him- BAM. Seriously I think this guy could have sung at the top of his range for days. He showed the utmost control, grace and attention to detail in all of his passages.
Another standout was the Gesler, played by Justin Hopkins. The moment Mr. Hopkins stepped onto the stage, I was drawn to him. Not only was his voice beautiful, but he stayed 100% engaged at all times.
Mathilde, sung by the beautiful Caroline Worra, looked absolutely stunning in a bright red gown and giant jewel necklace. Her pianissimo and messa di voce melted my heart in her act two opening aria. She really started off the act with a bang and continued to draw me in as she sang seamlessly through all parts of her range.
In general, I wish that the singers had spent more time interacting with each other. There were many moments of piano interlude when the singers would simply look out at the audience. I wanted them to use that time as an opportunity to show us something about their relationships. By the end of the opera, I felt that I knew the bare bones of each character, but was never let inside to reveal what was going on under the surface. This made it hard to really get into the plot. I only partially knew what was going on because I was reading the supertitles.
Overall, this was not the most theatrically engaging performance I have ever been to, but the singing was absolutely beautiful. I appreciated the level of professionalism that the principal singers brought to their role study. The Engineers Club in Baltimore is an absolutely stunning venue for an evening of opera, and the ushers were extremely professional and accommodating. If you love listening to opera, I highly recommend going to see BCO’s version of Werther, November 10-12th.
For more information about BCO, visit their website HERE.
She’s a singer, pianist, teacher of both voice and piano, and fronts her very own band, Chasing Mellow.
This is her first review and we think she did an exceptional job. Woot!
Learn more about Rachel HERE.
Photo credit: Julia Fletcher