Brooklyn couple part of festivities
By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Stephen De Maio, who wears many hats in the opera world, presented Opera Night on Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Columbus Citizens Foundation at 8 East 69th St. in Manhattan. This elegant intimate venue was a perfect setting for a concert and dinner on a crisp fall evening. The evening started with “finger food,” wines and good talk.
Brooklyn neighbors MaryAnn and Louis Aidala, who are club members, were also part of the festivities. Aidala, a noted lawyer with his handlebar mustache, was profiled in New York Magazine a few years ago. Their son Arthur, also a lawyer, is a frequent guest on Channel 5 here in NYC, where he gives advice on various legal issues. Many Brooklyn youngsters have been presented college scholarships as part of the mission of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. The foundation also sponsors the Columbus Day Parade and opera nights.
Mezzo soprano Stephanie Melzi opened the program with “Siebel’s Aria” from Faust by Gounod. Melzi’s voice is an instrument in full bloom with burnished tone and sparkle.
Bridgette Gan sang “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata and impressed us with her unwavering defiance of love pulling her from freedom. Gan’s focused and steady, soaring soprano took us all on that journey.
Samantha Guevrekian sang “Mi chiamino, Mimi” from Puccini’s La Boheme. Her lovely amber hued soprano brought out all the sweetness of Mimi’s character.
Tobias Greenhalgh regaled us with “Silvio’s Aria” from Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. Greenhalgh’s silvery baritone with its dark underpinnings proved irresistible to both Nedda and the audience.
Courtney Mills thrilled us with a stunning “Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca. Her sumptuous soprano offered us a rainbow with the complimentary “pot of vocal gold.”
Takaoki Onishi sang an electrifying “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. His beautiful warm baritone negotiated the many flourishes, ascents and descents of this comic aria.
Soprano Courtney Johnson and baritone Greenhalgh blended voices in “Dunque io son” from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia with comedic flair and élan leading up to a rousing finale.
A sumptuous dinner followed Part One prepared by General Manager John Bowden. Part Two was short but powerful.
Surprise guest artist soprano Angela Meade, fresh from her Metropolitan Opera triumph as Norma, took a bow. Steve De Maio played a CD of Meade’s sublime live singing of “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma.The applause was deafening.
Ricardo Tamura, Brazilian tenor who is making his Met debut on Dec. 17 as Cavaradossi in Tosca thrilled us with a gripping and passionate “E lucevan le stelle.” His quality of Italianate fervor and Spanish style will make him a very valuable asset to the Metropolitan Opera. His encore was the ever popular “La donna e mobile” from Rigoletto.
Greenhalgh encored with “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific with burnished lows and a really fine pianissimo at the finale.
Onishi sang an Italian love song, “Musica Prohibita” (Gastaldon) which our erudite host De Maio explained, was really sung by a woman about her suitor. Onishi, a baritone from Tokyo with tenorial flair, sang with ardent passion, power and beauty of tone as if Italian-born.
Arlene Shrut was the excellent piano accompanist. The evening ended with delicious tiramisu, cookies and coffees but the real desserts were those the singers gave us. Thank you, Steve De Maio.