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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

An Afternoon of OperettaSarasota Opera
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Seraph Brass Quintet and All Shook Up


Artwork Courtesy of Sarasota Opera
For a holiday concert this season, Sarasota Opera recently presented An Afternoon of Operetta at Sarasota Opera House and Venice Performing Arts Center. The program featured three artists, each of whom has recently sung one or more major roles for the company: soprano Hanna Brammer, tenor Ben Gulley, and baritone Sean Anderson. John Spencer IV was the music director at the piano.

The program included the works of Johann Strauss II (The Gypsy Baron and Die Fledermaus), Franz Lehár (The Land of Smiles and The Merry Widow), and Jacques Offenbach (La Périchole and Orpheus in the Underworld). A bit of Gilbert and Sullivan (The Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore), and some samples of Victor Herbert (Eileen and Babes in Toyland), Sigmund Romberg (The Student Prince and The New Moon), and Rudolph Friml (Rose Marie) completed a nice survey of the genre.

In the varied program there were solos, duets, and a couple of trios. Sean Anderson opened the program with "Open Road, Open Sky" from the Gypsy Baron, poured on the schmaltz for "Toyland," and in the second act sang a paean to "Rose Marie." Ms. Brammer soloed on "My Hero" from A Chocolate Soldier ("Come, come, I love you only") and a lovely rendition of "Vilja" (The Merry Widow), among others. Ben Gulley showed how "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" should sound, (the tenor vs. a baritone rendition), while "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours Is My Heart Alone") from The Land of Smiles is always melted butter for a lyric tenor.

Some of the best duets included "Merry Widow Waltz" (Mr. Anderson and Ms. Brammer), "Golden Days" (Mr. Anderson and Mr. Gulley) from The Student Prince, Eileen's "Thine Alone" (Ms. Brammer and Mr. Gulley), and "Wanting You" (Ms. Brammer and Mr. Anderson) from The New Moon. Trios included one from the first act of La Périchole, here called "The Jolly Jailer Trio," which in the opera house usually stops the show cold, "And This Is My Beloved" from Kismet, "Never Mind the Why and Wherefore" from H.M.S. Pinafore, and a trio version of the second act finale of Die Fledermaus called "Toast to Champagne."

The singing was fine—these are, after all, voices that sing leading roles in some of America's better regional opera companies—and I much prefer to hear voices bigger than required rather than ones struggling. But it is also true that none of them were truly stylistically attuned to the niceties of the genre. Still, I was delighted to have had this lovely afternoon.

An Afternoon of Operetta was presented December 14, 2018, at Venice Performing Arts Center and December 16, 2018, at Venice Performing Arts Center. For more information, please visit www.sarasotaopera.org

Hanna Brammer, Soprano
Ben Gulley, Tenor
Sean Anderson, Baritone
John Spencer IV, Piano


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