The ICO's third program in its Masterworks series, with new music director Matthew Kraemer on the podium, was given over to opera -- more specifically to operatic highlights from the standard repertoire, featuring four young vocalists singing solo arias with one duet, and the Indianapolis Opera Chorus in four selections. Though these excerpts were scattered among the soloists and chorus before and after intermission, let's hone in on the soloists one at a time -- after the ICO launched the program with the Oberon Overture by Carl Maria von Weber.
First we look at soprano Sydney Mancasola, a 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition winner. She first sang "Je veux vivre" from Charles Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. After intermission Mancasola returned for "Caro nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto. In both she exhibited excellent vocal control, her (many) high notes filled with sheen, as well as strongly projecting.
Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., a 2015 Metropolitan Opera NCA winner, was heard first in "Hai gia vinta la causa" from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. Later we heard him join the chorus in the thrice familiar Toreador Song from Bizet's Carmen. He delivered in both an excellent vocalism, but he slightly lacked in richness-of-timbre.
Mezzo Margaret Mezzacappa, yet another MONCA winner from 2012, first sang "Cruda sorte" from L'Italiana in Algeri by Rossini. Later she was heard in "Stride la vampa" from Verdi's Il Trovatore. In each, Mezzacappa exhibited a very wide vibrato such that she was straying well into adjacent pitches, rendering it difficult to ascertain which pitch she actually meant to sound. Her loud projection made this pitch anomaly all the more irritating.
Tenor Yi Li, a 2014 MONCA winner, first sang "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Bohème. He followed in the second half with "Pourquoi me reveille" from Massenet's Werther. Li displayed the best, most even projection and vocal control of the four singers. Plus he made the best duet paring with Mancasola in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene ("O nuit divine").
The choristers were featured without the soloists in the world famous Anvil Chorus from Trovatore and in the Waltz Scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. These 32 singers gave a splendid account of themselves in both. Their employment in an unannounced encore -- the quartet from Act 4 of Rigoletto with all four soloists joining in -- provided a nice cap for the evening. Jan. 30