By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Operatic baritone Theodore Lambrinos was born in Brooklyn and has had a brilliant operatic career singing over 60 major baritone roles. His acclaimed “Rigoletto” at the Metropolitan Opera was the stuff of legend and his many appearances with New York Grand Opera’s Verdi festival added to his luster. His voice captivated the critics in the United States, Europe and the Far East. His versatility and acting ability have made his performances of “Falstaff,” “Scarpia” and “Don Giovanni” unforgettable to the SRO audiences who were able to see them.
Not bad for a Brooklyn lad from a Greek-American family. Lambrinos recalled his happy memories of St. Johns Place and his days as a student at Erasmus Hall High School as well as his visits to the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Brooklyn Museum, the Grand Army Plaza Library and Prospect Park and all the cultural opportunities offered to him then. Lambrinos was nurtured in our borough, and he enters the long list of those Brooklynites whose talents make the world a better place.
Soprano Hallie Neill from San Diego was praised by the New York Times as “A rapturous singing actress” and she has sung many operas to world-wide acclaim, especially “Tosca,” “La Traviata,” “Carmen,” “Pagliacci,” “Die Fledermaus” and “The Merry Widow.” She has sung in 25 countries including Cairo Opera, Netherlands Opera, Opera Tampa and the New York Grand Opera.
Her talents as a playwright led to her creating “A Scandalous Affair” about the secret love of musical film idols Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, in which she toured with her husband baritone Theodore Lambrinos. Their CD from the show was on the Grammy list for “Best Musical Show” album. Famed tenor Placido Domingo described Hallie Neill as “A beautiful soprano with a voice of glory.”
Hallie and Theodore will soon be heard as the “opera singers” in the upcoming film “Doggie Boogie." They are truly a dynamic duo.
The evening of Aug. 10, in the charming and intimate Laurie Beechman Theatre at Manhattan’s West Bank Café, featured a performance of “The Diva and the Baritone” (Cole Porter to Puccini) starring Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos.
The musical arrangements were by the talented Elliott Finkel, away on tour, another Brooklynite and son of the famed Yiddish stage and TV actor Fyvush Finkel of “Pickett Fences”. The witty and effervescent dialogue was written by Hallie Neill. Good natured, good-humored “competitive” banter made for an evening of sheer delight and joy!
The opening number was a spirited Sondheim number, “There’s a Parade in Town,” with Lambrinos looking elegant in a dark tux and white scarf and Neill in a sequined gown and boa.
Ms. Neil did some impressive coloratura as their friendly duel became hotter. “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from “Annie Get Your Gun” was a highlight as Lambrinos interjected his lower dynamics with Sparafucile’s subterranean notes.
Operatic bits included a mock La Gioconda “Suicidio” from the diva and Simon Boccanegra from the baritone. Broadway highlights included “So in Love” from Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate,” “It’s Delightful, It’s Delicious, It’s Delovely” “You Do Something to Me” and “All The Things You Are.” They were sung chock full of melodic beauty with as rich a vocal blend as the finest of coffees.
A tribute to Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Mac Donald followed with "Wanting You" from Sigmund Romberg’s 1940 film “New Moon.” Neill then introduced author Sharon Rich, who wrote the book “Sweethearts,” upon which Ms. Neill’s hit show “A Scandalous Affair” was based.
Lambrinos sang a deeply touching “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific,” evoking the memory of the great opera basso Ezio Pinza. He also sang a medley including one Greek song and a spirited Russian song. Neill followed with a tantalizing Piaf selection “La Vie en Rose.” Who could resist the “O Sole Mio” or “Arrivederci Roma” that followed?
Frank Sinatra hits “Come Fly with Me” and “New York, New York” made for a fabulous finale, and when the ovations stopped, “I Feel a Song Coming On” was the witty finale, as they were both as loath to leave the stage as we were to see them go! The excellent pianist-accompanist was David Shenton.
When my wife Judy and I were dating, we went to see Nelson Eddy and Gale Sherwood at the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They too had vocal splendor and casual humor which provided an evening of nostalgia and enchantment. We were transformed by this evening’s show to that young couple we were back in 1965.
A special thank you to soprano Elaine Malbin (also from Brooklyn) and Paula Baron for recomending that we see this marvelous show!
For further information: www.DivaBaritone.com