New York.- On October 21st, 2012 the Greek Orthodox Community of Astoria – St. Demetrios Cathedral on the occasion of the Feast Day of their patron Saint and commemorating their 85th year anniversary presented their annual Opera and Ballet Concert in collaboration with the Hellenic Music Foundation. In attendance were more than 450 people who flocked the standing room-only Petros Patrides Hall and enjoyed an evening of grandiose proportions featuring an eclectic selection of Opera and Ballet music.
The concert – which was again admission free for the public – was even more successful than last year in its scope and attendance;
This year’s impressive lineup of participants included (in no particular order): 14 distinguished and talented opera singers who perform nationwide, at the MET and in Europe, flanked by the Queensboro Community College Chorus and 6 of their young dancers, members of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Symphonic Orchestra and Brass Band, as well as the Hellenic Music Foundation Orchestra and Chorus and the Mendelssohn Glee Club. The massive ensemble was admirably held together by the secure conducting of Yannis Xylas.
The concert started off appropriately with the chorus singing the ‘Greeting to the Hall’ (“Freudig begrüssen wir…”) from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, followed by “Je suis Titania” from Thomas’ Mignon sung by the president of HMF Katia Zallas. Her beautiful interpretation was evident by the clarity and warmth of the voice, the precision of the difficult intervals, the lyricism of the arpeggios and an overall coloratura quality which was brilliant and effortlessly expressed the rhythmic demands of this enticing piece of music. Then the Dance Majors of the Queensboro Community College presented the sensual and orgiastic Chorus and Bacchanale from the Biblical opera by Camille Saint-Saëns “Samson et Dalila”, choreographed by Emily Berry.
One of the most well know pieces of the operatic repertoire, the drinking song from La Traviata was staged with finesse by Phytos Stratis and featured Jennifer Gliere and Tami Swartz sharing the role of Violetta, with David Gordon and Paul Joseph Mayon sharing the role of Alfredo. Returning for his second year with the orchestra tenor Adam Klein of the Metropolitan Opera sang a strong rendition of the short but full of conflicting emotions “Tu, indietro…” from Verdi’s Otello, an opera based on Shakespear’s Othello, taking place in Cyprus and whose title role is one of the most demanding for a heroic tenor.
The first part of the program closed with the March and the Act II Finale of the very melodic operetta Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss II featuring all soloists on stage: David Gordon as the elegant but philandering Duke of Urbino, Tami Swartz and Jennifer Gliere as Annina and Ciboletta respectively and tenors Joseph Paul Mayon as the barber Caramello and Doug McDonnell as the zany cook, supported by Kirsten Kane as Agricola and Costas Tsourakis as her husband Testaccio. The choir provided a strong contribution towards the joyous finale while the projections of fireworks and the Venetian masks created a festive atmosphere.
The second half of the program started with the majestic chorus ‘Ce jour heureux…” from the opera Don Carlos by Verdi, followed immediately by the Soldier’s Chorus from Gounod’s Faust sung by the Mendelssohn Glee Club. In both pieces members of the Brass Band from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts performed together with the main orchestra seated amphitheatrically in platforms in a separate section next to the Choir.
Rosa d’ Imperio and Nathan Bahny acted and sung with authority as Brünnhilde and Wotan respectively in a staged version of Wagner’s Die Walküre 2nd Act opening of the 2nd Act The excerpt featured some impressive vocalisms by Mrs. D’Imperio. The Barcarolle from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, one of the most well-known pieces in the entire repertoire was sung and danced by Jennifer Gliere, Gina Perregrino and the dancers from Queensboro Community College.
As this concert was dedicated to the 100 years of the death of French composer Jules Massenet it was only natural that it would feature his music and indeed, some of his lesser known works were presented: Extended excerpts from Le Cid and Hérodiade, which belong to the Grand Opera genre. The rousing Act I scene 2 featured Adam Klein as Rodrigo, Rosa d’Imperio as Chimène, Nathan Bahny as the King and Tami Swartz as Infanta with Constantinos Tsourakis as Don Diegue supported by the combined choral forces and orchestra complete with pealing bells and organ. The three excerpts from the second act Ballet music was choreographed again by Emily Berry.
The final segment of the program featured members of the Frank Sinatra Symphonic Orchestra and Brass band performing side by side with the Hellenic Music Foundation Orchestra in the thrilling conclusion of the Opera gala featuring the March from Act IV from Le Cid and the majestic Roman soldier’s chorus from Act IV of Hérodiade followed by the perennial favorite Zorba (the Finale of the ballet by Theodorakis) featuring the young talented bouzouki player Theofilos Katechis from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts .
A short speech by Nikos Andriotis – the man to whose inspiration we owe this unique annual concerts – was delivered at this point thanking the sponsors who made this concert possible; special mention was made by the conductor Mr. Xylas to the Chorus Master of the Queensboro Community College Steven Dahlke and the directors of the Frank Sinatra Symphonic Orchestra and Brass Band Ken Lieberson and Eli Kronenberg for their valuable contribution to this successful concert; as always, the Halleluja from Händel’s Messiah – in an expanded and robust orchestration by Mr. Xylas (combining elements of Mozart’s and Goossen’s reworking of it) rounded off the evening.