Indianapolis Opera’s season opener on May 22 brought a crowd to the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park for an energetic program of selections from Broadway musicals, symphonic pops, Great American Songbook and operas featuring four superb guest soloists along with a robust partnership between the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the Indianapolis Opera Choir.
The program unfolded a landscape of the individual choices we make with each of the soloists showing a range of characterizations. Baritone Galen Bower opened as a menacing, pompous Toreador, partnered with tenor Scott Ramsay in the heartfelt vow of friendship “Pearl Fishers Duet,” and captured the soulfulness of “Some Enchanted Evening.”
Ramsay gave us a touching “Bring Him Home,” a rousing “Nessun Dorma” and partnered with soprano Katrina Thurman for a wistful “Tonight.”
Thurman (in a slinky, sparkly red rose gown) gave “Popular” a spunky sheen and brought the winsome, dreamy “Ain’t It a Pretty Night” through her full vocal range. She followed the playful “By Strauss” (by the Gershwins), which pans Broadway of Berlin, Porter and Kern and begs for waltz oom-pa-pah, with a show-stopping rendition of “Sempre Libera.”
Mezzo-soprano Barbara LeMay [in a pink-red lace over cream gown with a bejeweled bodice] brought hot-blooded Carmen with her from the wings for a spit-fire “Habenera” and later in the program limped on stage shoe in-hand turning “I Hate Men” into a production number.
As a foursome the soloists gave verve to the drinking song “Brindisi” and closed the program with a memorable “Make Our Garden Grow.”
“It speaks about our lives and how we live them. We do the best we know,” commented Kevin Patterson, Indianapolis Opera’s new General Director, at the close of the program. At the opening Patterson set a lighthearted tone for the evening with an invitation to keep our cell phones on and follow the electronic program on personal smartphones.
For a $1 raffle bid we could be in the running to replace maestro Kirk Trevor at the podium to conduct the ICO for one number in the Second Act. While Virginia Rodrigez got the on-stage honors, the consolation prize for the rest of us was standing at our places and waving the light sticks we received upon entering to earn a full-bodied “Colonel Boogey March” composed in 1914 by F.J. Ricketts, a British Army bandmaster. And we all sang along for “Back Home Again in Indiana,” bringing one audience member to ask me if that qualifies for a resume inclusion. Seems fair to me.
Chorus Master John Schmid prepared the IO Chorus, Allen White of Indiana University Events was Technical Producer, Mike Schwandt designed the lighting and Kirk Trevor conducted the program. It's apparent if you want great weather and a crescent moon ringed by planets, invite WTHR’s Angela Buchman to host.