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Review: 3 sopranos were the high notes in Toledo Opera Gala

It was all glitter and be gala Saturday night in the Peristyle as the Toledo Opera presented its annual concert tribute to the glories of the human voice.

Twinkling stars and a crescent moon lit the way outdoors. Inside, there was more sparkle in audience attire.

But nothing came close to the musical lights on stage, as the Toledo Symphony, led by Thomas Conlin, lifted off the evening with the familiar fanfare from Richard Strauss s Also sprach Zarathustra. Conlin added that brief bit, he explained to a near-capacity audience, to remind listeners of which Strauss was to be featured and explored.

Then, from Die Aegyptische Helena, ( The Egyptian Helen ), was an aria for the title figure, Helen of Troy. In her Toledo debut, Tonya Currier sang of her character s second bridal night, a piece that exploited her rich dramatic soprano and introduced the complex scoring for which Strauss is so renowned.

During most of her aria, Currier was able to project well above the big orchestra, but as climaxes developed, one could see Currier s mouth moving, yet barely hear her voice.

Only in the debut of coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore, singing Zerbinetta s playful aria from the 1911 opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, was there no issue between orchestra and soloist. Pianist Curt Pajer added lively color and accent in this work.

And a wonderful debut it was. Gilmore s agile titanium voice light but very, very strong, smooth and clear shone in a delightful performance that married fine singing with excellent acting.

After an orchestral foray into the Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss s Salome, Currier returned to sing what she described as Chrysothemis s mad scene, from Elektra.

Back to full head count, the orchestra again dominated musically, so that any subtlety Currier may have attempted was largely unheard. It did not help that this singer used a binder with music for her performance, thus limiting her range of motion and, it seemed, emotion as well.

The highlight of the evening was the second half: a seamless summation of arias, duets, trios, and waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier, featuring Currier (Marschallin) and Gilmore (Sophie) plus the welcome addition of mezzo Deanne Meek as Octavian. Meek s rich voice conveyed much drama as her character moved from one lover to another. There was lots of chemistry between her and Gilmore. Still, the overwhelming volume of the orchestra covered many of the subtle musical exchanges, leaving listeners wondering what they missed.

Before the show, general and artistic director Renay Conlin announced the line up for the 2008-2009 season, its 50th year. Next fall, the opera will present Verdi s Rigoletto, with Richard Strauss s powerful one-act, Salome, to follow midwinter, and Leonard Bernstein s Candide as the spring finale.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.

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