Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 16

by Megan Meister

There were two outstanding apprentice auditions yesterday morning, but the general level was very high.  It will be interesting to keep track and see just how many of these talented young singers actually are able to forge a career and how many fall by the wayside.

Sadly, it is not always the most talented who “make it.”

Often the best singers are easily discouraged and are too sensitive to survive what can be a cut throat business.

The CARMEN matinee featured a 24 year old “Carmen” in her leading role debut, and while she was a stunning girl and a committed actress (and had a big success with the audience) I am not sure how her performance would “translate” on to the stage of a big American Opera House.  Glimmerglass only seats about 900 people, and I suspect much of her compelling, but intimate performance, would get lost in a larger theatre.

The “Escamillo” was a last minute replacement, and someone well known to Dallas audiences—Michael Todd Simpson.  I first heard Todd when he was an apprentice here in Glimmerglass, which is no doubt why he agreed to come up here to “save” the situation after the scheduled baritone had to withdraw from the production after opening night.  Todd had been singing “Escamillo” earlier this summer in Beijing, but had a bit of time before his fall season began and so he was happy to help out.   Todd just got married last summer, so I am not sure his wife, Julia, was as happy…

Todd is a terrific “toreador” and his second act aria was a highlight of the show.

This summer, Glimmerglass has inaugurated several new programs, including lectures about various subjects related to the operas being performed, as well as “cabaret” performances by various guest artists who are here for the summer appearing with the company. (We have been doing these things in Dallas for a long time, but this sort of thing didn’t used to happen here very often.)

After yesterday’s CARMEN, matinee it was Rod Gilfry’s turn to do a cabaret act. We are fortunate that he has performed a version of this for us in Dallas several times.  He is terrific in opera, of course, and has starred in TDO’s productions of COSI FAN TUTTE, BILLY BUDD and THE MERRY WIDOW to name a few, but he has a special affinity for the music he performs in this show, which includes Broadway ballads and popular songs.

On this occasion he was joined on stage by his daughter Carin Gilfry, a talented young mezzo-soprano, who is one of the apprentice artists here this season, and who has featured roles in the double bill of the two new American works LATER THE SAME EVENING and A BLIZZARD ON MARBLEHEAD NECK.  She sang “La Vie en Rose” and an amusing song about the perils of being a lyric mezzo and always having to play “trouser roles”, as well as a duet version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Edelweiss” with her father.  They reminisced that the only time that they have ever had the opportunity to share the stage in a production was two years ago in Paris for THE SOUND OF MUSIC, in which Rod was Captain von Trapp and Carin played his daughter Liesl.

It was a really wonderful performance and I was delighted to be able to be there.

I am back in Dallas later today and can hardly wait to return to the triple digit heat wave that shows no signs of abating…

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