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Archive for June, 2009

Opera Concert in Franklin Park

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Opera Concert in Franklin Park

By the Opera Amateur*

If I described the June 20 Open Opera performance as it really happened, my readers would think I was making things up. Yet, the event at Franklin Park in Alameda was beautiful. The weather was perfect: dappled shade and intense sun moderated by a cool breeze. Chairs were set up, but readily pushed aside to spread picnics and make room for baby carriages and pets. The stage was only a few inches high, so that the performers and the audience of over 200 were interconnected. Here are some of the elements that made this event so spectacular.

First was the program. It was opera arias sung by well-known Bay Area singers – all pieces that opera lovers would know and newcomers would instantly love. If anything, it was too sweet, like falling into a giant cake and eating your way out. But that’s not a bad thing. I wished, though, for some American composers and more pieces in English.

Elizabeth Baker sang two of Cherubino’s arias from Le Nozze di Figaro. Her voice is a lovely lyric mezzo, and her interpretation of Cherubino brought the character to life. This bodes well for Open Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro to be presented on July 25 and 26 at John Hinkle Park in Berkeley.

Alameda resident Eileen Meredith mesmerized the audience with her “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. She also contributed brilliantly to several ensembles, my favorite being the stunning “Flower Duet” from “Lakeme” by Delibes. She was joined by Sigmund Seigel’s beautiful tenor and Leland Morine, bass-baritone, singing “Bella Figlia” from Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Eileen joined Elender Wall for the beautiful “Sull’aria,” also from Figaro. Elender as solo performer sang “Da Tempeste,” Cleopatra’s final aria from Handel’s Guilio Cesare. Usually, big voices like Elender’s are saved for Wagner, and rarely sing the elaborate coloratura of “Da Tempeste.” But she sang it with fire and brilliance.

Heather McFaddin has an enormous, warm mezzo voice. Her “Voi lo sapete,” from Cavalieria Rusticana by Mascagni, was intensely passionate — breathtaking. Tenor Raymond Chavez sang a compelling “En fermant les yeux” from Massenet’s Manon. Katya Roemer was outstanding in singing the “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka by Dvorak.

Representatives of the next generation of singers also participated. Taylor Thompson, tenor, student of the event’s emcee David Tignor, and Kendra Dodd, mezzo, student of the event’s piano accompanist Jim Meredith, are graduating from high school and attending music conservatories next fall. Both have beautiful voices.

During the performances, the audience was in constant flux, and that was a great thing. Youngsters would listen to several arias, and then swing in the adjacent playground. One nine-year-old resisted efforts to get him to go play because he wanted to hear his aunt sing. After her performance, he trotted off.

A toddler, barely a year old hearing and seeing clapping for the first time, began running toward the performers, then turning toward the audience, clapping enthusiastically. People walked dogs and skateboarded. That led to the one glitch of the day: a skateboard dislodged a power cable in the middle of Handel’s “Da Tempeste.” I guess the opera spirits were having their joke: a power outage during a storm. People living in houses surrounding the park were listening from their front yards and balconies. One singer described the feeling of singing to the first balcony of a grand opera house.

Bringing the event together, setting up, making announcements and appeals for donations to Open Opera was soprano Ellen St. Thomas, who chose to stage manage the event rather than sing. She reminded us that this free event, with everyone volunteering their time, still has costs. Olivia Stapp, a retired prima donna and the founder of Open Opera, wants audiences to enjoy the day as well as the performance. Opera used to be a social event where people could come and go and talk with their friends – not just heard in the formality of a concert hall. Ms. Stapp wants to bring that freedom back into opera.

She certainly succeeded at Franklin Park. I wish there were more opportunities to experience open opera. The whole world could benefit.

*Amateur — devotee, admirer, lover

Ellen Wall, English Professor, SF City College

Open Opera in Alameda– Concert a success!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


Alameda, CA, June 22, 2009 –

A dozen opera singers from Open Opera serenaded more than 200 music lovers in a free recital Saturday afternoon at Franklin Park.

Open Opera’s first Alameda appearance featured over two hours of art songs and opera favorites on a sunny afternoon. A cast of ten singers, mostly from the Bay Area, presented 24 art songs, arias, duets, and quartets from well-known operas, accompanied by Alameda’s own James Meredith.

Kendra Dodd, who just graduated from Encinal High School and studies voice with David Tigner and James Meredith, was one of the crowd’s favorites. “It was a beautiful family event, and one of the best productions that the community has seen in a while,” Dodd said. “The musicians volunteered their time for this, and they were all fantastic.” Dodd will attend the Manhattan School of Music this fall.

The crowd also enjoyed Alameda soprano Eileen Meredith, who “had a wonderful time” singing at Franklin Park. “I’m in love with this music, and I really enjoy sharing it. Sitting in a gorgeous natural setting listening to music is very inspiring. It was great to see the turnout of friends, family, neighbors, teachers, parents, and kids from Alameda and beyond.” Meredith also helped recruit musicians and publicize the concert. Alameda tenor Raymond Chavez, known for his work with the Alameda Civic Light Opera, sang pieces by Cilea and Massenet for the many listeners of all ages.

Well-known Bay Area singers such as Heather McFadden, Sigmund Siegel, Katya Roemer, Leland Morine, Marta Johansen, Elender Wall, and Elizabeth Baker sang famous arias and duets from operas by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Bizet, as well as lesser-known works. Young tenor Taylor Thompson, who sang two pieces, is a graduate of Fairfield’s Rodriguez High School and will attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

“Patrick Russi and his crew from the Alameda Parks and Recreation Department were crucial to making the event such a success,” said Ellen St. Thomas, the Executive Director of Open Opera. “They were friendly, extremely helpful, and made the event very easy logistically. Franklin Park was beautiful, too.” She added that Open Opera would like to make this an annual event in Alameda.

Open Opera will present “The Marriage of Figaro” (“Le Nozze di Figaro”) at John Hinkel Park in Berkeley on July 25-26 at 3:00 p.m. The free opera production will include costumes and a full orchestra, and will feature many of the artists who performed in Alameda Saturday afternoon.

Alameda resident Ursula Apel, Director of the San Francisco Opera Guild, co-hosted the Franklin Park program with David Tigner. Founded in 2008, Open Opera “combines classical music with natural elements to create a one-of-a-kind experience for singers and listeners alike,” according to its web site.

“We’re bringing opera to the public for free in a time of economic uncertainty, and using public outdoor spaces to build community through the arts. You could see it in the diversity of the audience. The kids were listening from up the trees,” according to soprano Elizabeth Baker, who serves as Open Opera’s Creative Director.

Open Opera is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and from private donations.


Jon Spangler

Linda Hudson Writing


Alameda Concert Program

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009



Open Opera’s

Concert in Franklin Park, Alameda, CA

June 20, 2009 3 PM


1) Marta Johansen: “Ch’il bel sogno” / La Rondine by Puccini


2) Eileen Meredith and Elender Wall: “Sull’aria” / Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart


3) Elizabeth Baker: “Non so più” / Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart


4) Leland Morine: “Votre Toast” (Toreador Song) / Carmen by Bizet


5) Kendra Dodd: “When I am Laid in Earth” / Dido and Aeneas by Purcell


6) Elender Wall: “La Tempesta” / Guilio Cesare by Handel


7) Leland Morine and Marta Johansen: “Dite alla giovine” / La Traviata by Verdi


8) Taylor Thompson: “Tell me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky” by Vittorio Gianinni


9) Katya Roemer: “Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém” (“Song to the Moon”) Rusalka by A. Dvořák


10) Eileen Meredith: “O mio babbino caro” / Gianni Schicchi by Puccini


11) Heather McFadden and Elender Wall: “Belle nuit” / Les contes d’Hoffman by Offenbach


12) Eileen Meredith, Heather McFadden, Sigmund Seigel, Leland Morine: “Bella figlia”/ Rigoletto by Verdi


13) Katya Roemer: “Art is Calling for Me” / The Enchantress by Victor Herbert


14) Sigmund Siegel: “Recondita Armonia” / Tosca by Puccini


15) Heather McFadden and Eileen Meredith: “Vien Malika” (The Flower Duet) / Lakmé by Delibes


16) Raymond Chavez: “Lamento di Federico” / L’Arlesiana by Cilea

17) Heather McFadden: “Voi lo sapete” / Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni


18) Katya Roemer and Sigmund Seigel: “Già nella notte densa” / Othello by Verdi


19) Elizabeth Baker: “Voi che sapete” / Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart


20) Kendra Dodd: “Connais-tu le pays?” / Mignon by Ambrose Thomas


21) Eileen Meredith and Sigmund Seigel: “O soave fanciulla” / La Bohème by Puccini


22) Raymond Chavez: “En fermant les yeux” / Manon by Massenet


23) Marta Johansen: “Der Hölle Rache” / Die Zauberflöte by Mozart


Live Oak Park, May 30, 2009

Monday, June 1st, 2009



May 30, 2009

1) Marta Johansen: “Je suis Titania” Mignon by Ambrose Thomas

 2) Elizabeth Baker and Rebecca Krouner: “Si, fuggire: a noi non resta” ” Romeo and Juliet from Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

 3) Zachary Gordin: “Vision fugitive” “Hérodiade” by Massenet

 4) Aimee Puentes: “Gavotte” Manon by Massenet

 5) Leland Morine: “Old Man River” Showboat

 6) Paula Goodman Wilder: “Ave Maria” Othello by Verdi

 7) Micah Epps: “Isis and Osiris” The Magic Flute by Mozart

  8) Norman DeVol: “Questa o quella” Rigoletto by Verdi

 9) Leland Morine and Marta: 2nd Act duet from La Traviata by Verdi

 10) Leland and Norm: “Au fond du temple saint” Pearl Fishers by Massenet

 11) Norm: “E lucevan le stelle” Tosca by Puccini

 12) Heather McFadden: “Stride la vampa” Il Trovatore by Verdi

 13) Aimee and Zach: “La ci darem la mano” Don Giovanni by Mozart

 14) Marta: “Die holle roche” The Magic Flute by Mozart

 15) Sidney Ragland: “Total Eclipse” from Samson and Deliliah by Camille Saint-Saëns

 16) Leland: “Toreador” from Carmen by Bizet

 17) Paula and Heather: “Belle nuit” from Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach

 19) Paula: L’altra notte Mefistofile by Boito

 20) Rebecca: “Quando men vo” La Boheme by Puccini

 21) Micah Epps: “In diessen heilgen hallen” The Magic Flute by Mozart

 22) Marta, Heather, Norm and Zach: “Bella figlia” Rigoletto by Verdi