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Wolf Trap Opera Singers
The atmosphere was suffused with testosterone Friday night at the Barns of Wolf Trap, when the talented young Wolf Trap Opera Company gave a recital titled "Where the Boys Are." Beginning with a rousing ensemble performance of "Standing on the Corner," the program went on to musical treatments of such other favorite male preoccupations as football, tennis, trying to understand women and developing seduction strategies.
The program reached an emotional climax in a soaring performance of "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" and a peak of wit in an ensemble performance of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." A homoerotic sub-theme was woven through the program -- idealistic in Leonard Bernstein's "To What You Said," with text by Walt Whitman, desperate in William Bolcom's "A Great Man's Child," witty in "The Ball Is in Your Court" and in Gilbert and Sullivan's "I Am a Maiden Cold and Stately," and baffled in "The Boy From," whose female singer wonders why an unapproachable boy's "friends call him Lillian."
Men from this year's company were featured. Tall, cool, versatile bass Matt Boehler gave a classic performance of "When I Fall in Love." Tenor Jason Ferrante evoked the 18th century in a beautifully ornamented "The Lark Sings High in the Cornfield." Baritone Brian Mulligan was hilarious in Bernstein's satirical "Pass That Football," as was baritone Alex Tall in "Shiksa Goddess," about a Jewish man's yearning for a non-Jewish woman -- any non-Jewish woman.
A female element was needed to contrast with the macho theme, and it was superbly supplied by mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock and soprano Laquita Mitchell, the most beautiful voice among many beautiful voices.
Together, they deflated the men's pretensions in "What You Don't Know About Women." Mitchell was deeply appealing in "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men," as was Babcock in "My Old Man."
Steven Blier, who devised this imaginative program, played the piano accompaniment and gave a witty commentary on the songs.
-- Joseph McLellan