Special to Town Times by Larry Kellum

On August 17th, the pink, late-summer skies over Middlebury, Ct were aglow with a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” of a concert featuring the CT Lyric Opera and the CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, in conjunction with the 2 year old CT Summer Opera Foundation, who all collaborated to bring celebrated Metropolitan Opera tenor star Carl Tanner to our state for an enchanting evening of arias and songs that, in essence, served as an unofficial opening to both companies’ upcoming seasons. The gala concert and gourmet pastry reception afterwards was held at the prestigious Westover School in Middlebury, and became even more glamorous by the presence of retired soprano Lynn Strow-Piccolo, a Waterbury resident who reveled in a major international career of her own in the 1980’s, and spread valuable “trade secrets” to all concerned in the midst of the after-hours party.
Tanner is a big, burly man with an even bigger, larger-than-life “teddy bear” persona who recently made a smash Met debut in Puccini’s “Girl of the Golden West”, and has been singing dramatic tenor roles in most of the world’s top opera houses since. Many in the audience were comparing his voice to Pavarotti’s, but for those of us who know better (and remember!) like this reviewer and Ms. Strow-Picccolo), one could here Mario Del Monaco all over the squillo and timbre of his instrument. With the exception of the overture to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” ( a specialty of maestro Sylveen’s), the entire concert consisted of all popular verismo selections — ie Puccini and the realism operas, including “Carmen”. Tanner did not disappoint, and was graciously accompanied by the CLO’s resident diva Jurate Svedaite, who sang familiar chestnuts from her repertory of Puccini’s Lauretta, Tosca and Mimi. As always, the CT Virtuosi breathed with its singers, and Sylveen kept the concert at the absolutely ideal length of an hour and a half. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Tanner’s two arias from “Tosca”, and Svedaite’s “Vissi d’arte” from the same work.
Next season, the CLO and its resident orchestra, the CT Virtuosi, will launch their 11th season in November with a novelty (for them)  — their first foray into Wagner with the “Flying Dutchman”,  the production appearing at  Middletown High School, Waterbury’s Palace Theater and New London’s Garde. Also on the docket next spring, same venues, is even more Puccini — the beloved “Madame Butterfly”, a company first! Ms. Svedaite will demonstrate her versatility by appearing as both Senta and Butterfly — roles like night and day in vocal requisites! For more information/tickets, please visit thevirtuosi.org or the ctlyricopera.org. To learn more about the CT Summer Opera Foundation and its educational outreach programs, please visit ctsummeropera.org.

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