• An Evening of Arias in Cary - review

    Almaviva attended on August 10 a concert of operatic arias and duets by Handel and Mozart at the Cary Arts Center in the North Carolina Triangle, featuring acclaimed countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, soprano Rachel Copeland, and the Brussels Chamber Orchestra augmented by musicians from the North Carolina Symphony. The evening was co-sponsored by our partner North Carolina Opera and the Town of Cary with their Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival, which closes today, August 11, with another concert by the Brussels Chamber Orchestra (see details below).

    This evening apparently was the first one to include Handel's operatic music in the Triangle, something we profusely congratulate NC Opera for, thanks to Eric Mitchko's and Timothy Myers' vision - opera lovers in the region are grateful for their eclectic programing which will feature Wagner's music this season, and has featured contemporary opera last season. It is very satisfactory for us - Opera Lively is headquartered locally in the NC Triangle - to see our home company headed in the right direction and daring to present to the public stimulating fare that goes beyond the warhorses usually seen in regional opera.

    The quality of yesterday's show couldn't get much better. We were treated to first rate music by world-class performers. The program started with the BCO playing the Allegro molto movement from Haydn's Quintetto Concertant, Op. 88 [Hob. II/c:9]. Next, Rachel Copeland sang "Endless pleasure" from Semele; Anthony Costanzo did "Pena, tiranna" from Amadigi di Guala; Rachel brought in "Piangerò la sorte mia" from Giulio Cesare, which was also the source for the next two numbers: "Aure, deh, per pieta" sung by Rachel, and the exquisite duet "Caro! Bella!" between Giulio and Cleopatra that closes the opera, with the two singers showing enormous chemistry. Anthony ended the first half with "Rompo i lacci" from Flavio.

    After the intermission that had the ushers passing around appropriately Belgian chocolate and grapes (nice touch!), the orchestra played the plucking Adagio Cantabile from Haydn's same Quintetto, followed by Rachel singing "S'altro che lagrime" from La Clemenza di Tito; Anthony again with "Venga Pur" from Mitridate, Re di Ponto; Rachel with "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" from Don Giovanni; and the two singers performing the lovely and rarely heard duo "Per le porte del tormento" from Sosarme. The encore ended the night with another Handel duo, "Se teco vivo il cor" from Radamisto.

    The Brussels Chamber Orchestra is made of 12 virtuosi musicians playing the strings. Based in Europe but with instrumentalists hailing from seven nations, it includes Raleigh-born Neil Leiter (viola). It was augmented by American artists mostly from the NC Symphony - Jennifer Streeter (harpsichord), Carla-Copeland-Burns (flute), Bo Newsome (oboe), Aaron Harmon (bassoon), Rachel Niketopoulos and Christopher Caudill (horns). Concertmaster Nana Kawamura (of the Thêàtre Royal de La Monnaie opera company in Brussels) commanded her forces with exquisite precision.

    Rachel Copeland was charming and convincing throughout her range, including a beautifully ringing and well projected top. The star of the evening, however, was Anthony Roth Costanzo. The gifted countertenor brought the sold-out house down with his extraordinary colors, and literally had audience members in tears, including this writer. The glaringly bright reviews this young man is gathering everywhere he sings are well deserved. His instrument produces sounds so unbelievably beautiful, that they cause shivers and goosebumps throughout the public, resulting in the unusual event of *standing* ovation after each number, not only at the end. His infectious smile during the uplifting duos and his poignant facial expression in the dramatic moments (e.g., "Pena tiranna") bear witness to his acting abilities - and to top it all, Anthony's instrument comes equipped with a fine brain, as evidenced by his intelligent answers to our questions [read our exclusive interview with him (here)]. This is a major artist with a brilliant career ahead of him, and seeing him on stage a few yards from us was a joy and a privilege.

    After having met his proud parents - Duke University Psychology professors Dr. Susan Roth and Dr. Philip Costanzo - we said farewell to Anthony, already regretting the fact that this sublime evening of music was over, and wishing to see him again on the stages of his native North Carolina in the future, hopefully in a full opera with our home company.

    The Brussels Chamber Orchestra will close the festival tonight at 7:30 PM, with a program including the Sinfonia in C, RV 116 by Vivaldi; the Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op. 6 No. 2 (HWV 320) by Handel; the Battalia à 9 by Biber; and the Five Novelettes, Op. 15 by Glazunov. I'll be surprised if tickets are still available given the quality of what is being offered, but one can try [here] ($20 and $25). Our initial announcement for the festival contains more information about this annually recurring event [click (here)].

    Congratulations are in order to NC Opera and the Town of Cary; to Dr. Roth and Dr. Costanzo for their genes ; and to all artists who performed yesterday.

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