On Sunday afternoon, Opera Exposures returned to the historical Saint Mark’s Church in the Bowery with a program dedicated to the memory of Alfred B. Smith (1925-2008), one of its most devoted supporters. Among the performers was the Met soprano Osceola Davis, who, in private life, is Mrs. Alfred B. Smith.
Davis was in magnificent vocal and interpretive form on this occasion. She tossed off the coloratura fireworks and the sly humor of “Amor” from the Brentano Lieder by Richard Strauss with great ease. She also caught the wicked subtleties of the de Banfield text so cleverly set by Debussy in “Pierrot,” one of his earliest songs.
Davis joined the baritone Kenneth Overton in the Act 2, Scene 1 duet beginning with the recitative “Il pallor funesto” followed by “Soffriva nel pianto.” It was charged with the kind of dramatic intensity one usually hears in a major opera house. Davis returned later to sing three spirituals from her upcoming CD.
Overton was also heard in an excerpt from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Wolfram’s lovely hymn to the song from Wagner’s “Tnnhauser” and the Hall Johnson arrangement of the spiritual “Witness.” His deep rich dramatic baritone could soar impressively when needed, but also spin out the lovely lyric lines of the Wagner piece.
In a dramatic duet between characters Manrico and Azucena from Verdi’s “Il trovatore,” the tenor Angelo Mazzone and the mezzo-soprano Roxanne Rowedder sang their hearts out and won an ovation. She was equally effective in “Voi lo sapete” from Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and in an aria from Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.”
Mazzone lent his lovely voice to such contrasting pieces as “Dein ist mein ganzes Hertz” from the Leher operetta “Das Land des Lchelns” and the Neapolitan song “Core ingrato” by Salvatore Cardillo. All of the singers were given superb support at the piano by Jonathan Kelly. Dwight Owsley was the utterly charming and informative Narrator.
The founder and director of Opera Exposures, Edna Greenwich, wisely drew on the talents of the same group of singers for most of her concerts. She has created a real ensemble in the way a director works in an opera company. These events make fine music and music making available to the public at affordable prices.
NOTE: On Saturday, June 14 at 8 p.m., Lavender Light Gospel Choir will present its annual Gay Pride Concert at Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street. Founded in 1985, this highly praised ensemble is under the direction of Ray Gordon. Tickets will be available at the box office on the evening of the concert.
On this occasion, Lavender Light will present a posthumous award to Regina Shavers (1941-2008), a peace activist, one of the first openly gay leaders in New York City labor unions and a member of the Mayor’s Police Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues. She was also a member of Lavender Light.