Bel Cantanti, Singing Superbly in a Place to Call Its Own

Monday, September 11, 2006

Katerina Souvorova's ambitious Bel Cantanti Opera Company, a troupe of young up-and-coming singers, regularly programs two operas and two concerts of arias a year. Now it has found what it hopes will be a permanent home in the Randolph Road Theatre (the old Round House Theatre) in the Wheaton area, a nice, funky, small stage that should be ideal for the scale of its productions. It was there that the company opened its fourth season Friday, with a "Salut à la France," a concert of arias and ensembles from French operas.

All 13 company members got a chance to sing in the choruses from Bizet's "Carmen" and Donizetti's "La Fille du Régiment" (an opera that might not be French in origin, but certainly is in spirit). As might be expected, these are singers in varied stages of vocal development. Baritone Bryan Jackson projected enormous energy and considerable beauty in everything he touched, and was as compelling as Mephistopheles in "Le veau d'or" from Gounod's "Faust" as he was contemplative in his duet "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's "Les Pecheurs de Perles" with tenor Kevin Perry (who handled several ensemble assignments with assurance). Soprano Keesun Kwon gave a knock-out reading of the "Bell Song" from Delibes' "Lakme"; mezzo Jessica Renfro's Carmen in the "Habanera" aria was convincingly steamy and seductive; and soprano Rhea Walker lavished a warm sound and fine diction on Salome's aria "Il est doux, il est bon" from Massenet's "Herodiade."

Mezzo Abigail Wright delivered an aria from Ravel's "L'Heure Espagnole" with delicious flair backed up by splendid diction, and soprano Meghan McCall handled the "Chacun le sait" aria from "La Fille du Regiment" with humor and energy. Randa Rouweyha, Emily Ezzie and Cynthia Farbman were at their best in well-rehearsed ensemble numbers, and baritone David Krohn and mezzos Lingling Peng and Alexandra Christoforakis handled their assignments with determination and serious purpose. Souvorova accompanied all that with considerable flair on a small upright piano and managed to sound almost orchestral.

-- Joan Reinthaler

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