Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Metropolitan Opera Free Recital Series!

The Metropolitan Opera Takes the Stage at Central Park's Summerstage
If you enjoy opera and open air, you may be interested in the Metropolitan Opera's Summer Recital Series, taking place in NYC parks through August 9.  These FREE shows are the perfect way to introduce this timeless art to your "opera-curious" friends who aren't yet ready to (or just can't afford to) shell out the big bucks for the Met's classic full-length performances.  Even if you've been an opera lover for years, the series is a great way to kick back, picnic, and enjoy music samples from your favorite shows, as well as some you probably don't know.  Currently, three evenings remain in this six night series, which began on July 25 at Central Park's Summerstage, and continues on August 2 in Clove Lakes Park (Staten Island), August 7 in Jackie Robinson Park (Upper Manhattan), and August 9 in Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island City/Queens).

WGINY caught the Central Park performance, a beautiful, romantic theatrical display, hosted by Danielle de Niese, who was also the evening's featured soprano.  I was immediately dazzled and amazed by the professionalism of the "rising" stars singing the likes of Puccini, Verdi, and Rossini, for free, on the stage before me.  De Niese, as the only female singer, had the luxury of a few fancy costume changes, from one black-tie gown to another, while the men (tenor, Dimitri Pittas, and bass-baritone, John Del Carlo) donned tuxes and dark suits.  Although this was in theory a concert, with a set list of approximately 17 individual and duet songs from more than 10 different multilingual operas, accompanied by pianist, Dan Saunders, the performers kept true to the character(s) they represented with each number.

The most enchanting moment was when, after a brief intermission, all three singers performed, and acted out, four selections from Donizetti's opera (Italian), "L'Elisir d'Amore," which de Niese explained translates to "Elixir of Love," and is a show that modern patrons would likely refer to as a romantic comedy.  The Shakespearean-style tale of love, magic potions, and the confusion they bestow, is intended to be lighthearted, and yet, I was utterly captivated by the story behind the music.

The show began at 8pm, just as dusk was settling in, but, due to park rules, was required to end by 10pm.  The time went quickly for the audience and performers alike, as De Niese realized as the night went on that there would not be enough time for the entire set to be followed as noted in the program given out at the start of the recital.  We were then treated to some "spontaneous" encore songs before the proverbial curtain closed (it's a park; there were no curtains...) and the lights in the house came on (okay, the lampposts surrounding the Summerstage area).  The event was so packed and popular that many were turned away from the actual Summerstage area (where the food trucks and wine are!) and had to spread out among the surrounding green to listen to the show, and perhaps hope to get a glimpse through the fence.

The performers and operatic selections on the remaining nights differ from what was presented in Central Park, but if the latter shows pack even a portion of the talent and wonder I was exposed to at that first recital, they will be a force to be reckoned with.  Prepare for Rossini's "Il Bariere di Siviglia," Gounoud's "Faust," Mozart's "Don Giovanni," and even some surprises from more "modern" theater, such as Rogers & Hammerstein's "Carousel."  Featured performers will be soprano, Deanna Breiwick, tenor, Alexander Lewis, and baritone, Edward Parks, accompanied by pianist, Vlad Iftinca.  All shows begin at 7pm and are rain or shine.

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