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Operetta's Golden Favorites
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota

Maria D'Amato and Dimitrie Lazich
Last year around this time I attended an Artist Series Concerts program of The Music of Kurt Weill, one of my favorite composers. This year they presented a marvelous program of Operetta's Golden Favorites, a favorite genre, as witness the countless recordings of operetta, both American and European that form a large portion of my CD and record collection.

Headlining the program were off-stage romantic couple Maria D'Amato and Dimitrie Lazich, soprano and baritone. They met right here in Sarasota while performing at Sarasota Opera where they both remain regular visitors. They shared with the audience that he recently proposed marriage and she accepted, then performed "I Love You," best known as The Merry Widow waltz. They were assisted by a quartet of local voices, soprano Deborah Berioli, mezzo Hanna Hough, tenor Christopher Culpepper and bass Joshua Mazur, and accompanied by Artist Series Concerts founder Lee Dougherty Ross.

The first half of the program included groups from Sigmund Romberg, Vincent Youmans and, finally, Jerome Kern, while the second half gave over half of its contents to the father of American operetta, Victor Herbert, plus selections from Noël Coward, Franz Lehar and Johann Strauss.

Ms. D'Amato showed off a luscious soprano, creamy in the middle, able to do full justice to Desert Song's "Romance," and several Victor Herbert gems, "Italian Street Song," "Thine Alone" and "Art is Calling Me." Later she demonstrated why the Metropolitan Opera's current practice of showcasing a Mezzo in the title role of The Merry Widow is so wrong when she offered up "Vilia" in the original soprano key. I was especially impressed with her diction. I thought I was able to understand the words fairly clearly, not often easy in soprano range, so I confirmed this with a lovely lady seated beside me.

Mr. Lazich showed off a nice, legitimately produced baritone, strongly suited to this lighter repertoire. He highlighted on "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," Without a Song" and "Every Day is Ladies Day with Me." In the second half he showed great comedic talents in "I Want What I Want When I Want It." I'm not sure I would want to attend a cocktail party with him.

Together they dueted to great effect in "Wanting You" and "I'll See You Again" among others. The chorus opened the program with "To Vienna" from The Gypsy Baron, Youmans' "Hallelujah," and joined the principles for "Brüderlein" from Die Fledermaus here translated as "Sing to Love." When they returned for the reprise that closes act two of the original, my ears were all poised for the 20-bar reprise of the polka that the orchestra plays to ring down the curtain. Ms. Ross showed great pianistic gifts as well as an understanding of how this music needs to dance.

This was a great way to celebrate mother's day and if my mother were still with me, she would have enjoyed it immensely, as did her son.

Artists Series Concerts has one more event for this season, pianist Asiya Korepanova on June 1 and 2. Events likely to appeal to my readers for next season include Avery Summers, Broadway singer, on November 2 and 3, K.T. Sullivan on December 7 and 8, 2013, as well as Jennifer Sheehan, cabaret singer, on March 15 and 16, 2014 and another operetta program with Susana Diaz on May 10 and 11. There will also be two seasonal events of interest, as December 21 and 22 bring us "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" featuring Andrea McArdle (Broadway's original Annie) and a December 21 performance of Gian Carlo Menotti's perennial Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Operetta's Golden Favorites, presented May 11 and 12, 2013, by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota, at The Historic Asolo Theater, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941 306-1201. For more information, please visit www.artistseries.net.

--William S. Oser



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