Opera in Concert attracted a full house to its spirited production of Verdi's I vespri Siciliani, conducted from the piano with gusto by the always energetic music director, Dixie Ross Neill. As usual, Robert Cooper did an excellent job with the OinC chorus, particularly the men, who had more to sing and who produced a relatively even tone. I vespri Siciliani contains all the complexities of a mature composer. While there certainly were some wild and woolly notes that escaped during the performance, the cast was able, for the most part, to rise to Verdi's challenges and give this very dramatic opera its due.
The men walked away with the honors. Bass Marcel Beaulieu (Procida) continues to impress with his rich, commanding sound and impressive technique. Jeffrey Carl (Monforte), while still on the light side, proved to be adept at Verdi's difficult baritone high notes and coloratura, showing an attractive, expressive voice. Developing American tenor Darren T. Anderson (Arrigo) is certainly one to watch, with his Italianate sob, beautiful phrasing and great money notes. Soprano Maria Knapik (Elena) was very dramatic in delivery, but thin in texture and uneven in pitch. Among the comprimario singers, bass-baritone Giles Tomkins (Bethune) was a standout, with his sweet but manly sound graced with lovely phrasing and beautiful placement. An array of young singers rounded out the cast with mixed results. Bass-baritone Neil Aronoff (Roberto) and tenor Avery Krisman (Danieli) showed strong singing skills, but tenor Paolo Busato (Count Vaudemont), tenor Michael Lee (Tebaldo) and mezzo-sopra-no Liliana Piazza (Ninetta) were just serviceable.