“Dido and Aeneas” and “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Garden of Song Opera at the Como Lakeside Pavilion

Sara Fanucchi as Orpheus in "Orpheus and Eurydice." Photo: Andrew C. Kurcan

Sara Fanucchi as Orpheus in “Orpheus and Eurydice.” Photo: Andrew C. Kurcan

I was in Nashville recently and found myself bragging to musicians there about all the great legit singers, particularly women, in the Twin Cities. A new opera company, I learned last night, is out to give them more performance opportunities.

That’s the mission of Garden of Song Opera. Founder and artistic director Carmelita Guse says she was concerned that there were always many more women than men at auditions, vying for fewer roles than were available to the men auditioning. Her company’s goal is to always have more women than men in the cast, she says.

The company presents its first staged production this weekend with an evening of baroque operas, “Dido and Aeneas” and “Orpheus and Eurydice,” with all female casts. She’s chosen well. These operas were written, initially, for treble voices.

Oh, what a glorious sound that is! Guse as Belinda, the Queen’s personal attendant, anchors the name roles in “Dido and Aeneas,” with her lively voice and equally expressive acting. Emily Paige Johnson was the perfect vocal fit for the role of Dido; I’d like to see her put the same energy into her acting and just see how far she could go!

Amy Wolf as the Sorceress has a voice with presence and color. She skillfully leads her companions in evil, all in flowing, brightly colored lace and menacing makeup.

As good as the soloists are in this piece, it is the choruses of “Dido and Aeneus,” featuring from five to 10 singers, that stole the show. They just sparkled, sailing over the general background din of the lake’s activity like a magical soundtrack. With just keyboard accompaniment, the Courtiers’ and Witches’ choruses provided the fullness and support to carry the music on this large and open stage.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” is a smaller piece with three characters: Orpheus (Sara Fanucchi), Eurydice (Betsie Feldkamp) and Cupid (Emily Stephenson). This is Orpheus’ story, primarily, with plenty of anguish over Eurydice’s death and declarations of love to show off Fanucchi’s commanding range. She is also an accomplished actor and sings with beautiful precision and sensitivity. Feldkamp dances around the coloratura notes in her role so gracefully, and the duets between them are simply gorgeous! Stephenson gets to show off her impressive high notes, too, as we move to the happy trio that ends the play – a bright ending to the evening, as well,

The setting is the pavilion that sits right on Como Lake in St. Paul. There’s a new and heralded restaurant adjacent. Many in the audience were enjoying noshing along with the singing.

Don’t feel like you can’t miss a beautiful June evening by sitting inside a darkened theater. You’ll be enjoying the outdoors, listening to great music and supporting a worthy artistic endeavor. I encourage you to go.

Maureen Kane Berg directed, Angela May is music director and Mark Bilyeu is accompanist. The operas are sung in English and the libretto is printed in the program.





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