The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Anthony Clark Evans’ story of going from car salesman to opera sensation in less than a year has been one of the funnest arts stories of the year.
Fun: It ‘s not a word you often hear associated with opera, even in its best of times. Yes, the artists and participants may have a lot of fun at their craft, but the public demeanor of the discipline is often dramatic, tragic, academic and steeped in deep, deep tradition.
Evans took another step into this world on Saturday night with his premiere professional recital at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
The message seemed to be, I’m going to dazzle you and have a good time doing it as he launched the performance with the count’s mischievous aria from Le nozze di Figaro and concluding with Billy’s Soliloquy from Carousel – plus a two song encore, including a duet of Some Enchanted Evening with soprano Julie LaDouceur, who shared a couple duets with Evans and sang two arias of her own in the recital, all accompanied by Cliff Jackson.
For those who have not kept up with the fun stories of opera this year, it was less than a year ago that Evans was a car salesman at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown. A few years earlier, the baritone had been studying voice at Murray State with revered professor Randall Black. But he got married and needed to support his household. So in 2008, he left school, moved to E-town and started selling Toyotas.
But he didn’t forget opera. He decided to take a swing at the district round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Memphis, and he won.
And he won …
And won …
And won at the national finals of the competition, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
It’s a Cinderella story that restarted Evans’ dreams of a singing career, which he has been pursuing singing in other competitions around the country and with Saturday’s recital. It took place in the Singletary Center’s recital hall in front of a who’s who of music professionals, academics and students.
If the bachelor degree-less star of the evening was at all intimidated by performing in front of the expert crowd, he didn’t portray it, save maybe for a relieved smile after the opener, Hai già vinta la causa! from Figaro. Donizetti’s Bella siccome un angelo from L’ elisir d’ amore was his first big shot at vocal theatrics, which continued through his first duet with LaDouceur, Malatesta and Norina’s plotting number from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, which turned into a comic showcase for Evans and LaDouceur, who shares the baritone’s theatrical flare.
It wasn’t all comic, including a trio of numbers from Leoncavallo’s sad clown tragedy Pagliacci to start the second half.
In any form, the Singletary Center audience saw, as much as any audience so far, Evans a singer with a personality as big as his voice.
Since the Met wins, Evans has left the Toyota dealership, but when he is on stage, the good times roll.
See the show: Romeo et Juliette is the first broadcast on the iHigh Alltech Arts Network. Click here to see the performance reviewed. Click here for the live stream of the 2 p.m. Oct. 23 performance.
Photo gallery: The Oct. 23 and 28 cast of Romeo et Juliette.
Romeo is this young guy who wants to hang out with his pals and has a thing for the prettiest girl in town.
Juliette is that girl, and she wants to embrace all the passion and joy she can in the springtime of her life, especially if it’s in the arms of a dreamboat like Romeo.
It’s too bad their fine romance runs headlong into a family feud that may only be rivaled by the Hatfields and the McCoys.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a very well-known, well-worn story that is so familiar it’s easy to look right through it.
The first time I saw Charles Gounod’s operatic take on the play, the production did just that. It was very stylish, sumptuously sung and so emotionally vacant I remember just looking at my companion when the curtain fell and saying “let’s get some coffee.”
Romeo et Juliette or any other manifestation of the story should not leave an audience that indifferent.
Director Stephanie Sundine’s production for the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre sure doesn’t.
Thanks in large part to her stars, Gregory Turay and Julie LaDouceur, the story is infused by an emotion familiar to many of us: That passion of first real love that truly does make parting such sweet sorrow. From their first flirtatious glances and laughs to their last moments in each other’s arms, Turay and LaDouceur let the audience know this love means everything to their characters and the chance they could be together in death is more appealing than living without each other.
They are helped along by Gounod’s gorgeous music and the libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre that puts the focus on the love story.
And in Turay, LaDouceur and the rest of the cast, UK and Sundine have people that can really sing this stuff.
Turay has never sounded better on a Lexington stage as he has matured into a smooth, rich tenor voice ideally suited to a romantic lead like this. And he is beautifully paired with LaDouceur, their four duets blending with passionate clarity.
Juliette isn’t just listed in the program first to be polite. As substantive as Romeo’s part is, this is Juliette’s opera, and LaDouceur nailed every highlight including the coquettish Je jeux vivre and harrowing Amour, ranime mon courage, aka The Poison Aria. Lexington audiences have seen LaDouceur grow the last couple years as she earned a masters at UK. Now in the doctoral program, she has established herself as the leading lady of UK Opera Theatre. Let’s enjoy her while we can.
This production is double cast, and Turay and LaDouceur will perform again Oct. 29. The other cast, featuring Manuel Castillo and Rachel Sterrenberg in the title roles, performs Oct. 23 and 28.
This production also highlights UK Opera Theatre’s current depth with strong showings throughout the principal cast, particulary Reginald Smith Jr. as Capulet, more clueless than menacing as he is in the play, and Michael Preacely helping give substance to Romeo’s status as one of the guys playing the best friend, Mercutio.
As Tybalt, Luther Lewis III highlights the story’s dramatic turn between carefree youth and really bad blood, coming across as a gregarious guy in his first scene until the sight of Romeo flips a switch, and he is filled with a hate and rage as unreasonable and unyielding as Romeo and Juliette’s love.
It’s another facet of this production that says this is a case of youthful passions gone tragically awry.
The drama plays out on Richard Kagey’s marvelously simple set that shifts from balcony, to church to tomb and other formations with a minimum of prop changes.
Saturday night’s opening night performance had an event-like air, pretty much packing out the Lexington Opera House.
It was the sort of opening night deserved by this production that succeeds where it is so easy to fail.
Feb7Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Opera, Singletary Center for the Arts, UK; Tagged as: Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition, American Institute of Musical Studies, Amy Kukelman, Andrew Campelo, Andrew Miller, Cassandra Glaeser, Charles Vanderhoof, David Roth, Dylan Harrison, Emily Curtis, Emma Jackson, JoAnna Moses, Julie LaDouceur, Katie Baughman, Kentucky Opera, Kevin Blick Feldt, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lisa Hasson, Marcus Kuchle, Matt Turner, Natalie Minton, Nick Johnson, Scott Terrell, Taeeun Moon, Thomas King, University of Kentucky
Saturday was a good day for local talent at the Sixth Annual Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition as an established University of Kentucky star won at the graduate level and a trio of Lexington-area students took the undergraduate honors.
The awards were created to help grow UK’s voice program, and past winners have gone on to be stars in UK Opera Theatre productions and advance in other competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Students do have to attend the University of Kentucky to collect their rewards. Judges this year were Lisa Hasson, principal coach and music director of the Studio Artist Program at Kentucky Opera; Thomas King of the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and voice professor at Austin Peay State University; Marcus Kuchle, director of artistic operations at Cincinnati Opera; David Roth, general director of Kentucky Opera and Scott Terrell, music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.
1st Place Alltech Graduate Award: Julie LaDouceur, Lexington. The award includes $10,000 plus full tuition, graduate assistantship, promise of a future Main Stage role with the Kentucky Opera in Louisville, $2,200 toward tuition at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria in 2011 or 2012.
2nd Place Café Citadelle Graduate Award: Kevin Blick Feldt, Tallahassee, Fla. $7,500 plus full tuition, graduate assistantship, $2,200 toward tuition AIMS.
3rd Place Ruggles Sign Graduate Award: Taeeun Moon, Campbellsville. $2,500.
1st Place Alltech Undergraduate Award: Andrew Miller, Lexington. $5,000 plus tuition waiver, $1,750 towards tuition at AIMS.
2nd Place Bryant’s Rent-All Undergraduate Award: Dylan Harrison, Nicholasville. $2,500 plus tuition waiver, $1,750 towards tuition at AIMS.
3rd Place Lynn Imaging Award: Emma Jackson, Lexington. $1,000.
Bio-Cat, Inc. Outstanding Transfer Student Award: Matt Turner, Scott Depot, W.Va. $1,000 plus tuition waiver
Mr. William L. Rouse III “The Barbara Rouse Kentucky Prize,” for a student born or educated in Kentucky: Nick Johnson, Frankfort. $5,000
Stoll, Keenon, Ogden PLLC “Gail Robinson Musicianship Award”: Katie Baughman, Atlanta. $1,500.
Azur Undergraduate Enthusiasm Award: Emily Curtis, Georgetown. $500
Azur Graduate Enthusiasm Award: Andrew Campelo, Goiania, Brazil. $500.
Addington & Mills Undergraduate Musicianship Award: Natalie Minton, Crestwood. $500.
Addington & Mills Graduate Musicianship Award: JoAnna Moses, Williamsburg. $500.
Undergraduate Encouragement Award: Charles Vanderhoof, Elizabethtown, and Emily Furnish, Louisville. $250.
Graduate Encouragement Award: Cassandra Glaeser, Manitowoc, Wis. $250.
Transfer Student Encouragement Award: Amy Kukelman, Naperville, Ill.$250.
In the grand scheme of great Christmas presents for young opera singers, a rave review from The New York Times would have to rank pretty high. And that is what the UK Opera students in the world premier production of Thomas Pasatieri’s God Bless Us Everyone are enjoying, as Times critic Allan Kozinn declared the show the rare A Christmas Carol-based opera that might just succeed.
The co-production with Dicapo Opera Theatre opened Thursday in New York and runs through Sunday. It was supposed to come to Lexington for performances next week, but those shows at the Lexington Opera House were cancelled due to expenses that exceeded original estimates and low ticket sales. No doubt, the Times review may have helped goose sales a little.
“… this one-act work has ample charms, including an efficient, singable libretto, by Bill Van Horn and Michael Capasso, and an invitingly melodic score, with shapely vocal writing, lively choruses and trim, colorful orchestral writing that never gets in the way of the singing.”
Several singers were individually cited:
“Catherine Clarke Nardolillo sang Elizabeth’s music, particularly her reconciliation duet with Tim, exquisitely. Julie LaDouceur played a sweet-toned Fan to Nicholas Provenzale’s Beau.”
UK Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo also got a good notice for his conducting.
UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey said he hopes to bring God Bless Us Everyone to Lexington on a future season.
I’ve talked before at le blog about the challenge of reviewing University of Kentucky Opera Theatre productions because the collegiate company always double-casts shows due to singers’ needs for vocal rest — professional companies rarely put a show up on consecutive days for that reason — and to spread experience around.
It has its up sides, of course, but one downside is that only one cast gets reviewed by the paper. We simply do not have the time or space to review a show twice, and waiting for both casts to perform would hamper our efforts to deliver a timely review.
The same is true for UKOT’s world premier production of River of Time, which opened Thursday night at the Lexington Opera House. Nick Provenzale sings the lead role of Abraham Lincoln all three nights, but most of the primary singing roles are double cast. We reviewed Cast A (UKOT’s termionology) last night, which acquitted itself quite well in a new opera that had some big issues in story and pace.
That said, I did get to catch Cast 1, which performs tonight (Oct. 9), in a rehearsal last week, and if you are holding tickets for tonight’s performance or are thinking of going, I don’t think you’ll be shortchanged.
Among the standouts set to go on tonight are Reginald Smith Jr. as Billy the Barber and Julie LaDouceur as Ann Rutledge.
Based on what I caught that evening, some of the different performers will likely bring different vibes to their work. LaDouceur’s Ann seemed sweeter and more whistful than Amanda Balltrip’s more feisty, jocular take. And Smith, whose voice will always get your attention, put a lot of comand behind his version of Billy, performed with tremendous empathy by Mark Elliott Golson II last night and Saturday.
So the takes may be somewhat different, but either way, you should expect some terrific performances.
Oct9Filed under: Classical Music, Lexington Opera House, Music, Opera, Reviews; Tagged as: Abraham Lincoln, Amanda Balltrip, Christopher Baker, Dione Johnson, Everett McCorvey, Henry Layton, Jim Rodgers, Joe Baber, Julie LaDouceur, Kentucky Humanities Council, Mark Elliott Golson II, Megan McCauley, Nick Provenzale, Nick Vannoy, Our Lincoln, River of Time, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
Note: Space is finite in newspapers, really more finite than ever. This being a new opera, I wrote a bit longer than a usual review, and a little bit longer than the printed page in Saturday’s paper will hold. This posting of our River of Time review contains portions that will not be in the print edition.
No one in Abraham Lincoln’s home state has celebrated the bicentennial of the 16th president’s birth as well as the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.
At the start of the celebration in 2008, the Opera Theatre teamed with the Kentucky Humanities Council to present Our Lincoln, a multi-faceted tribute to the Hodgenville native that eventually traveled to Washington, D.C.
Before that show was even conceived, UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey had commissioned an opera about Lincoln from composer Joe Baber and librettist Jim Rodgers.
That opera, River of Time, had its world premiere Thursday night at the Lexington Opera House. It’s not the unqualified success of Our Lincoln, but there is much to like and even potential for Baber’s opera to endure as a portrait of the president before he was presidential.
River of Time’s story takes Lincoln from birth through the death of his first true love, Ann Rutledge. Along the way, he fights with his dad, becomes a bookworm, grieves the deaths of the three most important women in his life and even wrestles.
That story makes for some great moments, including a slave auction in New Orleans where Lincoln declares that if he gets a chance to fight slavery, “I’m gonna hit it hard.” The scene, with a heavy dose of spirituals, is the grand opera spectacle of the show.
But for the most part, this opera strives for a soothing — sometimes too soothing — Midwestern feel, in the spirit of Aaron Copland or Samuel Barber. That’s exemplified in a small-town dance scene in which Lincoln and Ann realize that regardless of whether she is engaged to another guy, they are in love. Read the rest of this entry »
So, earlier last week, I started getting notes from University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey about the UK Singers, Muhammad Ali and England. They and other dignitaries hopped across the pond for the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championship, and some other events. McCorvey sent along a pretty detailed account Saturday, so I thought I’d share:
Last evening the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the UK Opera Program and Muhammad Ali were the featured guests at the Windsor Castle Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championship Gala Celebration held on the grounds of Windsor Castle. It was an exciting event as the 8 disciplines that will be featured at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games were presented to the European crowd. Governor Steve Beshear and his wife Jane Beshear along with Kentucky Horse Park officials, the city of Lexington officials, WEG Board Members and many others from Kentucky were present to celebrate the gala affair.
UK Opera students were the featured performers during the evening. Held in the main arena, the singers were positioned on a stage in the middle of the large arena. Thanks to fabulous arrangements and orchestrations prepared and taped by our own Johnie Dean, the singers sang several songs during the evening.
This is one of the most important trips that UKOT has ever taken. I think that the benefits from this trip will be huge in terms of exposure, opportunities for the students and exposure of the program to a European audience. The crowd was spectacular. I served as host for the evening as well as one of the singing performers. At the end of the evening, I introduced each one of our singers individually and the crowd gave each of them an amazing ovation. It was very clear that in addition to Ali, they were the stars of the evening. The high point certainly was the introduction of Muhammad Ali. As he made his way around the stadium in an open air Range Rover (which is the Queen’s personal car and was offered by her to Ali for the occasion), we sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before an emotional and enthusiastically charged crowd. It was a spine-tingling moment in the evenings show. I was so proud of how professional the students were. Everyone here was amazed that they were students!
The singers have been presenting two shows a day at the Alltech Kentucky Village since Wednesday. They have 4 different programs prepared which they are rotating each day. After more shows on Saturday and Sunday we will leave for Dublin, Ireland on Monday to perform at a Gala Event in the evening and then on Tuesday we travel to Ennis, Ireland and then Dromoland Castle in the Southwest of Ireland to perform. These appearances are also with Muhammad Ali. The folks in Ennis, Ireland are comparing the visit of Ali with the visit of Gandhi! Quite amazing. It’s a pretty exciting trip for everyone and a huge Kentucky success!
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich