The Columbus Symphony Orchestra kicked off its Pops series with 'Opera to Broadway', where Canadian Conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, took the audience through a journey of popular music, from 19th Century opera to Broadway favorites, and back to operetta, merging all genres into one expressive, cohesive performance.
The CSO was joined by the beautiful collective voices of the Columbus Symphony Chorus, as well as guest vocalists, Aline Kutan, Frédéric Antoun, and Keith Phares. The Ohio Theatre audience was delighted as they enjoyed an evening of classic opera and Broadway favorites, from Romeo and Juliet, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, Oklahoma, Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, and many others.
Under the new direction of Canadian Conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra played cleanly and precisely, with emotional and tender moments interwoven. I especially enjoyed the vulnerability of "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, as well as "Humming Chorus" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. On the contrary, the CSO showcased its precision and meticulousness in Verdi's "Coro di Zingari" (Anvil Chorus) from Il Trovatore. Although slightly out of sync in Gounod's "Mad, La Reine des Mensonges" from Romeo and Juliet, overall, the orchestra blended quite nicely and came together as a cohesive unit.
Guest vocalist, Keith Phares kicked off the evening with "Mab, La Reine des Mensonges" from Romeo and Juliet, immediately commanding the stage with his strong presence, rich, lush tones, and warm baritone voice. He patiently allowed his voice to swell with the powerful crescendos and climaxes of the music, and exuded an honest confidence that set him apart from the other soloists. When the music shifted to Broadway classics in the Second Act, Phares clearly became in his element as an impressive actor with a beautiful, expressive voice.
French-Canadian tenor, Frédéric Antoun is also strong in his own right, with a powerful classical voice, tempered with sweet, inspired musical expression. The duet with Aline Kutan, Verdi's "Un di Felice" from La Traviata, showed off his vocal power which was perfectly blended with his counterpart. I also enjoyed his Broadway solo, "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story, which was emotional and poignant. However, when the three soloists performed as a group, Antoun's voice was the least notable.
With her soaring high notes and overly dramatic presence, Canadian soprano, Aline Kutan, seemed to be the audience favorite. She was precise, composed, and extremely impressive in Gounod's "Ah! Je Veux Vivre" from Romeo and Juliet, but overly acted and often self-indulgent in Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide.
Overall, it was a wonderful evening of popular classics played by an impressive orchestra, with unison voices, amazing soloists, and all under the stellar direction of Jean-Marie Zeitouni. As Keith Phares summarized the evening with the final piece from Candide, Bernstein's "Make Your Garden Grow".... "Any questions?"
For more information about the Columbus Symphony Pop or Masterworks Series, log on to www.columbussymphony.com.
Photo Credit: Randall L. Schieber