Boheme Opera NJ Presents Series of Virtual Concerts
By Nancy Plum
With the cancellation of its principal mainstage production of Verdi’s Rigoletto last spring, Boheme Opera NJ turned this fall to a season of four online concerts showcasing the company’s roster of singers. The Path from Opera to Broadway, launched in November, featured selections from Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, as well as excerpts from lighter opera and musical theater. A Night in Vienna, presented December 2, took Boheme Opera’s online audience on a voyage to Vienna, with the music of Johann Strauss, Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml, and Kurt Weill. With singers performing from their homes in many cases, Boheme Opera NJ compiled comprehensive surveys of opera and musical theater, narrated by the company’s president and series co-creator Jerrold Kalstein.
December 9’s Unique Broadway broadcast explored composers and shows which were ground-breaking in their time, including composers and works out of the American musical theater mainstream or introducing unusual themes. Central to this survey was the music of American composer Leonard Bernstein, whom Boheme Opera NJ featured with a presentation of several clips from the company’s 2018 Bernstein Centennial performance. This concert, which took place in the College of New Jersey’s Kendall Theater and conducted by Boheme Opera music director Joseph Pucciatti, drew extensively from Bernstein’s opera Trouble in Tahiti. Leading these excerpts vocally was mezzo-soprano Amy Maude Helfer, who consistently maintained a saucy attitude onstage and good control over a disjunct vocal line. Other standouts from this concert were tenor Errin Brooks, one of the young talents encouraged by Boheme Opera NJ over the years, and baritone Joseph Lodato, who sang a selection from Les Miserables. This musical was produced at a time when the lines between opera and musical theater began to become blurred, and Lodato’s voice was well-suited for Inspector Javert’s signature song, “Stars.”
Boheme Opera closed its series of virtual performances on December 16, with a musical overview of the Giants of Broadway, principally focusing on two pairs of collaborators: Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. This concert featured music most familiar to the listening audience, with sopranos Brynn Terry and Rebecca Shorstein, as well as baritone Charles Schneider performing.
Although he bills himself as a baritone, Schneider showed a solid lower register and expressive singing style while performing “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Camelot and South Pacific’s classic “Some Enchanted Evening.” In both selections, Boheme Opera’s managing director Sandra Milstein Pucciatti provided sensitive and crisp piano accompaniment. Schneider’s rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady was sung more vocally than audiences might recognize from previous Broadway productions, and was convincing. Schneider joined soprano Brynn Terry to close the concert with a duet of Carousel’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which brought out Terry’s operatic vocal style and provided clean harmonies between the two voices.
Brynn Terry has an expansive coloratura operatic background. She was featured in the opening concert of Boheme Opera’s virtual series and returned in this closing broadcast with songs from Camelot, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. Throughout, Terry’s performance style was animated, expertly accompanied by pianist Ting Ting Wong.
The third performer on the December 16 broadcast, soprano Rebecca Shorstein, endeared herself to the online audience by singing “Getting to Know You,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, in part to her dog, who seemed more than willing to participate. Shorstein also displayed theatricality and good vocal range in “I Could Have Danced all Night” and “Hello, Young Lovers” — her best number of the concert.
Boheme Opera NJ has presented four virtual concerts over the past month, but these performances were only one piece of the company’s online offerings. With its Worthy of Note podcasts and ongoing Who’s Afraid of Opera virtual “sit downs,” Boheme Opera NJ has taken the opportunity to both educate and entertain its audiences while unable to perform live.
Future scheduled online offerings and virtual concerts of Boheme Opera NJ can be accessed on the company’s website at bohemeopera.com.