Joyful. Exuberant. Heroic. The Choral Society of the Hamptons concert last Sunday afternoon at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor was all three, and also deserving of any number of encomiums bestowed by audience members, “amazing” and “thrilling” prominent among them.
Led by music director and conductor Mark Mangini, the chorus was joined by the South Fork String Ensemble and soloists Audrey DuBois, soprano; Cherry Duke, mezzo-soprano; and Ryan Allen, bass. Jin Ho Hwang, tenor, replaced Hansu Kim, absent due to a recent death in his family.
To feature a “Stabat Mater” in a concert titled “The Joys of Opera” may seem incongruous. But the major work on this program was written by Gioachino Rossini, who had composed 30 operas by the time he was 37 years old. Though his “Stabat Mater” is a religious work based on a devotional poem to the Virgin Mary as she stands grieving beside the cross, it is operatic in structure and filled with soaring melodies, some so tuneful that they were criticized as too “light.”
The work is in 10 sections, alternating choral and orchestral passages with arias, duets, and recitatives for the four solo voices. It ends with a complicated, exciting, choral fugue (“Amen”).
All four soloists have active careers in opera and recital throughout the United States and internationally, and are clearly virtuosi in their own right. Their seamless interaction with the impeccable performances given by the chorus and orchestra during the entire, demanding work was wonderful.
An added bonus was the clear diction of the chorus as they sang the Latin text, making it possible for listeners to appreciate its power. Mr. Mangini held this bold program choice together with cool but inspired aplomb.
After a standing ovation, the concert continued with opera choruses, the first from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Nabucco.” “Va pensiero,” known as the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” is the lament of an enslaved people yearning for their homeland. It is so well-known and beloved that numerous members of the audience simply could not resist humming along. This did not detract from the Choral Society’s fine performance. In a way, it recalled the great chorus’s history: hundreds of thousands of mourners sang it at Verdi’s funeral.
For the “Habañera” from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” mezzo-soprano Cherry Duke stepped forward as soloist. Her red dress, which had looked perfectly demure so far, suddenly sparkled provocatively—as did her performance of this sultry homage to
The final work on the program, the emotional “Easter Hymn” from Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana,” was performed with soloists Audrey DuBois and Ms. Duke. The ensemble was accompanied by organist Thomas Bohlert.
Again, the enthusiastic audience rose for a prolonged standing ovation. In the huge, packed, church sanctuary, air conditioning had lost the battle with the ongoing heat wave. The musicians, in formal concert attire, had performed the 90-minute program—and even an encore—without intermission, and with undiminished vitality.
Part of the chorus was positioned in the balcony, which gave a grand musical effect. But the temperature must have been grueling indeed. Every single participant should be decorated for outstanding dedication, artistry and valor.
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One fine body…