MY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION; SINGING AIDA WITH MY STUDENTS
My robust and solid tenor, Steve Grabe, thought it would be a gas to sing Aida around the piano with a really good cast, for a small group of friends, with me singing Amonasro. Aida's father. Somehow-given Steve's ambition, organizational and management skills, it evolved into a rather larger ... everything, from the magnificent venue of Castle Green, in Pasadena, California, to an audience somewhere around a hundred and big cake, large enough for the audience to enjoy it, with us afterward. A grand time was had by all!
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A BIRTHDAY ‘AIDA’ FOR (AND WITH) RICHARD FREDRICKS AT CASTLE GREEN
by Monika Beal, Lister reviewer
It is not merely the instrument, but an artist’s spirit that communicates a story; it is fine tuned mastery of expression that reaches the hearts of listeners. And the audience at the concert production of Aida on Monday, August 15, 2016 enjoyed a culmination of life-long dedication to the craft of bel canto singing, in the retelling a timeless classic.
We have tenor Steve Grabe (on the right in the cast photo below) to thank for putting together this event: the idea to sing this Aida as a “casual read-through ‘round the piano” with his voice teacher, Richard Fredricks, turned into a delightful concert performance of Verdi’s classic in Pasadena’s historic Castle Green. It was a very happy birthday indeed for Mr. Fredricks, whose impressive career on stage and screen spans more than forty years. The evening featured the exemplary work of his vocal students, several of whom were featured among a uniformly superior cast, from title role to chorus.
The ‘Aida’ cast
Between Castle Green’s ornate salon and the balmy summer night’s breeze, Verdi’s timeless music was gifted with an added immediacy by the exquisite work of musical director and pianist Brian Farrell. The show opened with Greg Vorst’s billowing baritone voice, commanding as the Egyptian high priest, Ramphis. Steve Grabe, wearing multiple hats on this evening, gave us Radames, with the soaring high notes of a love-struck soldier eager to conquer in both love and battle, while Erin Murphy’s mezzo-soprano voice gave life to Amneris with a fearless strength.
The Grand Salon, before the performance
In the title role, Laurice Simmons Kennelcaptured the anguish of princess-turned-slave, heart torn between duty to her people and the love for Radames. Meanwhile, Michael Margulies’ commanding bass leant the King of Egypt a regal presence. Rising above the mighty chorus singers, Dabney Ross Jones’ soprano voice rang clear and strong as the High Priestess, invoking Phta in act three. And of course, Richard Fredricks did not disappoint as Aida’s calculating father, Amonasro. A true highlight of the evening took place through Amonasro and Aida’s father-daughter duet, between Mr. Fredricks and Ms. Simmons Kennel; an elegant vocal partnership with haunting foreshadowing of Aida’s sacrifice. Overall, all participants in this Aida gave a wonderful, well-sung gift. Bravi tutti, and a very happy birthday, Richard!
CLICK LINKS BELOW TO VIEW PREVIOUS TIPS...
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