BELLS  WERE  RINGING  AT  WINCHESTER

By:  Hal de Becker

 

Six lovely young ladies who also happen to be accomplished opera singers known as ‘The Los Angeles Belles’ were joined by tenor Marco Antonio Varela in concert at Winchester Cultural Center.

 

The generous program of 20 solos, duets and ensembles consisted of operatic selections, French and Italian art songs, operetta, and old and new pop numbers.

 

All the Belles were obviously well trained and professionally experienced.  There wasn’t a flawed performance among them.

 

Particularly impressive was the Russian trained international award winner, soprano Aurica Avonaires.  Her rendering of the Queen of the Night’s challenging coloratura aria, Die Holle Roche from Mozart’s Magic Flute, was thrilling. 

 

Another highlight was the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen performed by mezzo soprano Victoria Fox.  Her honeyed contralto sound was lush and seductive – as was her acting. 

 

Catherine Kenney’s Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus and Kat Anderson’s ‘Monica’s Waltz’ from ‘The Medium’ were outstanding, as were Lindsey McFarlane and Sarah Shields in selections by Offenbach and Delibes.   

 

The Belles ensemble also performed an experimental work by Sergio Torres-Letelier in which vocal sounds of laughs, grunts, meows and screams replaced words and music. 

The ‘score’ was projected onto a screen and the composer explained how the desired sounds were conveyed to the singers who, reputedly, had not seen it beforehand.      

 

Susan Jordan’s poem ‘Shadows’ was set to a recitation by Amy Gordon and the sustained tones of a Tibetan singing bowl.  The Belles’ voices reproduced some of the mystical, vibratory sounds emanating from the vessel.    

 

Mr. Varela’s strong tenor voice was heard to good advantage in arias, duets and especially two popular Italian songs, O Sole Mio and Musica Proibita. 

 

The singers received outstanding accompaniment from Noor Che’ree on electric upright basses and an uncredited pianist.  Some numbers enjoyed rhythmic support from Mr. Torres-Letelier on the bongos.  

 

Staging of the Belles’ ensemble numbers captured the flavor of those selections and, like their vocal harmony, was well executed.  Especially so was a1930’s style version of ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.’

 

The Belles’ sleek black gowns and colorful, snazzy short dresses were another visual plus. 

 

A swinging, syncopated version of O’ Sole Mio made a delightful finale with all the artists apparently relaxed and enjoying themselves as was the happy audience.    

 

Patrick Gaffey, Winchester Cultural Supervisor, presents more opera at the venue May 12th through 21st when Sin City Opera returns with a production of Chabrier’s L’Etoile (The Star).  More info at 702-455-7340. 

 

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