Ryan Opera Center mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen and tenor Jonathan Johnson’s scene from Dialogues of the Carmelites at the 2016 Rising Stars concert ranked as the Editor of Vocal Arts Chicago’s top operatic performance of the year. TEoVAC also fondly remembers Laura Wilde’s blazing monologue from Jenufa and Johnson’s parade of high B’s in the quartet from La Rondine. This annual event has the potential to accomplish much of what the opera community strives for: introducing audiences to new/unheralded repertoire; offering a few thrills with brilliant technical display; showing the audiences how much they are appreciated; and, if the Ryan Center can repeat last year’s feat – creating excitement about the next generation of opera stars. Saturday’s concert is conducted by Lorin Maazel protégé Timothy Myers.
Coincidentally, this weekend also offers Ryan Opera Center alum and VAC favorite bass-baritone David Govertsen as the soloist in Bella Voce’s presentation of the Brahms Requiem in English with piano, four hands. Before you roll your eyes, please remember that Artistic Director Andrew Lewis always takes a scholarly approach to his programming and has access to the city’s finest singers. The result should be an enlightening read of a familiar work. Be advised that this version does not include the fifth movement soprano solo, added later by Brahms. Govertsen carries the burden of being the only vocal soloist, but has never disappointed.
The Grammy award-winning eight-voice ensemble Roomful of Teeth returns to Chicagoland on Sunday, this time at University of Chicago’s modern Logan Center for the Arts. Barely eight years old, this group has become one of America’s prominent champions of new music and sought-after collaborators. To date, they have enriched their style palette to include Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing, Sardinian cantu a tenore, Hindustani music and Persian classical singing. Roomful of Teeth is the future.
A new ensemble, The Strangers, makes its debut at the Early Music at the Barn series. Their program is centered around Salomone Rossi – a contemporary of Monteverdi – who set concerted madrigals to hebrew texts. The roster for The Strangers includes: tenor Ryan Townsend Strand, – a founding member of the handsome Constellation Men’s Ensemble and a recent featured soloist with Music of the Baroque; alto Josh R. Pritchett, who made a strong impression in the impossibly high haute-contre role “La Peinture” in Vox3 Collective’s Les Arts Florissants last month; Bass-baritone Michael Hawes, who has been heard with Chicago’s premiere vocal quartet Fourth Coast Ensemble and is also engaged around town as a trumpet soloist. Chicago-area early music ensembles would be wise to focus on the Italian baroque since John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi 450 is coming to the city in October. Maybe the Strangers could apply their enviable talents to the anniversary composer and be a component of a Chicago-based Monteverdi festival.