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"New Voices" Showcase a Triumph

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Sep 14, 2015 - 4:02:37 PM in reviews_2015

Left to right: Shareese Arnold, Jessica Faselt, Paulina Villarreal, Jessine Johnson, Pedro Arroyo, Andrew Manea, Christopher Brandon Morales and Jesse Leong

   Richard Wagner is not bereft of voices in Cincinnati.

   This was happily demonstrated at the Wagner Society of Cincinnati’s singer showcase, “New Voices” Sunday afternoon at Ascension-Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Wyoming.

   Heard were excerpts from Wagner’s music dramas. That, plus a singer’s choice selection on the second half of the concert, gave each of the seven young voices a complete introduction. (The master looked on from a Wagner Society banner placed to one side.)

   At the piano was Jesse Leong, who provided superb collaboration throughout.

   It was truly an occasion to relish the human voice – and to pique interest in Cincinnati Wagner Society events to come.

   Leading off the showcase was soprano Shareese Johnson Arnold, who performed Sentas’s Ballad from “The Flying Dutchman,” exhibiting a big burnished voice that filled the church.  She soared likewise in her chosen piece, “Zweite Brautnacht” from “Die Aegyptische Helene” by Richard Strauss.

   German-born Puerto Rican tenor Pedro André Arroyo exhibited a powerful voice with gleaming high notes in Eric’s Cavatina (“Willst jenes Tags”) from “The Flying Dutchman.” He came back on the second half with a wonderfully romantic “Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s “La Boheme,” where he scored similarly in the stratosphere.

   Bass-baritone Christopher Brandon Morales gave “Die Frist ist um,” also from “The Flying Dutchman,” a powerfully stirring performance, one enhanced by the dusky bloom on his voice.  (Morales did not sing an additional number, having to leave early to fulfill another engagement.)

   Jessine Johnson displayed a radiant soprano top to bottom in “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser.” She returned on the second half for a beautiful and touching “Non mi dir” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

   It was baritone Andrew G. Manea’s turn to shine in Wolfram’s aria “O du mein holder Abendstern” from “Tannhäuser” which he gave a touching performance.  He returned with Ford’s monologue “É sogno? O realta” from Verdi’s “Falstaff,” where he displayed drama and a huge voice.

   Mezzo-soprano Paulina Villarreal offered one of Wagner’s “Wesendonk Lieder,” “Träume,” in a lovely presentation. She returned in the second half for an equally beautiful “Se Romeo t’uccsise un figlio” from “I Capuleti ed I Montecchi” by Bellini.

   Soprano Jessica Faselt capped the Wagner presentation with “Einsam in Trüben Tagen” from “Lohengrin,” where her big voice thrilled her listeners.  She combined keen expression and impressive delivery in her chosen selection, “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte.”

   All of the singers provided effective introductions to their works (there were no program notes) and received a warm reception from their listeners.  There were far too few listeners however, and one wishes that this excellent program had received wider promotion.

   The Wagner Society of Cincinnati (founded in 2010) will present act 2 of Wagner’s “Siegfried” in collaboration with Queen City Chamber Opera on Oct. 23 and 25 at the Arts Center at Dunham Theater, 1945 Dunham Way. If the voices are like those heard Sunday, this sounds like a not-to-miss event. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-838-3006, or visit Siegfried2.brownpapertickets.com

   Further information about the Wagner Society of Cincinnati can be found at www.wagnersocietycincinnati.org and on the Wagner Society Cincinnati page on Facebook.