On April 6, Amarillo Opera hosted its Outrageous Spring Gala, which stratospherically exceeded expectations of success and served up the richest concoction of opera sweets imaginable.
The event stands as a microcosm for a successful year, which saw the organization under the inspired leadership of Metropolitan Opera star now Amarillo College faculty member Mary Jane Johnson pull it back from the abyss of oblivion to stand on firm ground.
That survival was celebrated in style by the first Gala in years, where a combination of visiting and local talent entertained and enriched several hundred fortunate fine arts fans at the Globe News Center.
This post can only address a few of the twenty individual and ensemble performances, but it’s worth noting that MJ did sing! This being the first night of the Final Four, she came on stage, donned her Texas Tech hat, and proceeded to lead the audience in the Tech fight song.
Hey, we in the Panhandle can kick back and be sophisticated simultaneously. Besides, Tech won. She should have done a repeat before the national championship game.
Cara Collins, in Cruda Sorte from Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, gave an outstanding rendering of a woman betrayed by Fate, whose supplicatory introspections conclude as she becomes a woman with a plan.
Rainelle Krause went regally ballistic as the queen of the night singing Der Holle Rache from Der Zauberflote by Mozart. This aria, famous for its sequence of quintal “Ah’s,” fairly spits venom and spite, which Ms. Krause did with artistic gusto.
Nicole Keeling and Eric Berry hit all of the right notes in the famous duet O Soave Fanciulla from La Boheme, that soars in a spine-tingling collaboration that features small talk as well as passion.
Sarah-Beckham Turner and Andrew Craig Brown joined their phenomenal voices to sing La ci Darem La Mano from Don Giovanni by Mozart in which Don Giovanni persuades a reluctant Zerlina to forsake her fiance and come away with him. But, there’s that tipping point, when, in a volte face Zerlina takes control and off they go.
Eric Barry and Andrew Craig Brown thrilled the audience with the most exquisite male duet in all of the operatic repertoire, Au fond du temple saint, from Bizet’s Les pecheurs de perles. Those few phrases when Eric lofted his tenor on high and Andrew Craig was perfect in harmony were transcendent, taking all out of the present to a place of pure beauty.
Other performers deserve at least some mention. Maestro Andy Anderson of New York City conducted the orchestra with Evgeny Zvonnikov as Concert Master and demonstrated a professional stage presence adjusting to the fluid dynamics of the production.
The chorus, most notably, sang Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco. This work holds a special place in the hearts of Italians and several times has been suggested as the national anthem.
Local artists showcased their high level of talent and included vocal soloists, and instrumentalist Mackenzie Nies, who played Polonaise Brillante No. 2 by Wieniawski on the violin.
Opera, the ultimate performance art, now redefined and recast is alive and well in Amarillo, thanks to Mary Jane Johnson and enthusiastic supporters, all who want to “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”