By Truman C. Wang
Photos credit: Larry Ho, L.A. Opera
Any opportunity one has to see the great Domingo is to be treasured. Imagine you are a young artist just starting out, and you are offered an opportunity to sing alongside Mr. Domingo in a star-studded gala concert. The date of the concert, April 1. What’s more, the stars of the show will be you and your fellow singers from the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. And no, this is not an April Fool’s joke.
At 7:30pm Saturday, the stage was set for this concert celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. Beautiful floral decorations adorned the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage as the musicians started to get into position, the well-coiffed patrons slowly filed into the auditorium, and a long line of ticket seekers patiently waited outside for any last-minute returns. The palpable excitement in the air suggested something special about to take place.
The concert program spanned a satisfyingly rich range of operatic styles and genres, from lighthearted operetta to dramatic arias and scenes in solos, duets all the way to a riotous sextet. Sondra Radvanovsky, the soprano du jour in the dramatic Italian repertoire, fired the opening salvo with the joyful Bolero from Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, showing off her lush velvet tone and fluid coloratura. Next up was famous Quartet from Rigoletto, with memorable contributions from tenor Joshua Guerrero (a 2014 Operalia winner) and baritone Kihun Yoon. The comical sextet from Act I of Rossini’s Cenerentola heard six young artists in a well-honed ensemble. Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee (a 2016 Operalia winner) impressed with his powerful delivery of the La Tempestad aria. Soprano So Young Park sang the Queen of the Night coloratura showpiece ‘O zittre nicht’ with the same brilliance and precision as she did singing Olympia in the current run of L.A. Opera’s The Tales of Hoffmann. Conductor Domingo was a fine accompanist during all these numbers, often whipping up the orchestra for dramatic effects but never overpowering the singers. Grant Gershon took over the baton during Mr. Domingo’s duet with Radvanovsky in the emotionally-charged father-daughter recognition scene from Simon Boccanegra.
During the intermission, I had the pleasure of surveying ladies fashion in the opera house lobby that seemed to rival or even outshine the glittering ball gowns worn by the artists, leaving me with little doubt that opera is an expensive business both on and off the stage.
The second half of the concert opened with Guerrero and Mr. Domingo in the rousing Pearl Fishers Friendship Duet, followed by tenor Brenton Ryan’s chillingly sinister ‘Lion may roar’ from The Ghosts of Versailles. Ms. Radvanovsky returned for a heartfelt ‘Senza mama’, ending it poignantly on a pianissimo high note. It boded well for her upcoming Tosca on the same stage in two weeks. Things lightened up a bit with the Letter Duet from Marriage of Figaro, where sopranos Summer Hassan (from Egypt) and Lauren Michelle sounded sisterly in their enchanting duet. Another rousing friendship duet followed in ‘Suoni la tromba’ (Yoon and Brownlee), made all the more memorable by Rob Freer’s stirring trumpet playing. The mood shifted to Viennese operetta, where Radvanovsky and Domingo sang a meltingly beautiful ‘Lippen schweigen’ duet from The Merry Widow to the deliciously lush strings of the L.A. Opera Orchestra. And last but not least, soprano Lauren Michelle’s searing rendition of ‘Dis-moi que je suis belle’ from Thais deservedly won a big ovation.
There was only one way to end this bubbly evening – with the Champagne Song from Die Fledermaus. A great time was had by all. The entire concert was most impressive and inspiring because of Mr. Domingo, who just turned 76 and still sang and conducted almost non-stop with boundless energy.
May these talented young stars go on to great careers, and may the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program continue to foster fresh new talents for the survival of this Greatest Art Form.
Truman C. Wang is Editor-in-Chief of Classical Voice, whose articles have appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News, other Southern California publications, as well as the Hawaiian Chinese Daily.