Sunday, 16 June 2024

'Opera to Pops' fills Soper-Reese theater

LAKEPORT – The Feb. 24 "Opera to Pops" concert presented by Clear Lake Performing Arts filled virtually all the seats at the newly-reopened Soper-Reese Theater, with hometown hero William "Bill" Pickersgill leading the way to the packed house.


Pickersgill, raised in Lake County and a graduate of Clear Lake High School, led his fellow San Francisco Opera members Andrew Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten in a program perfectly chosen to spotlight the considerable talents of all three.


The first half featured arias from eight operatic favorites starting with all three singing “Libiamo” from Verdi's heroic “La Traviata,” with the stage presence of each performer strong enough to lead the audience through the action.


Andrew "Andy" Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten who in real life are husband and wife shared the spotlight, amid obvious lovers differences, in a scene from Donizetti's “Elsir d'amore,” while Lustgarten followed with the flamboyant Magda's solo from Puccini's “La Rondine.”


Accompaniment was provided by Cesar Cancino, whose musical career is as extensive and varied as that of the singers, having toured North America, Europe and Mexico as pianist, conductor and accompanist to many of the greats of the music world. His hands on the keyboard of the grand piano produced some of the finest sounds yet heard in the redesigned venue.


Au Fond du Temple Saint” from Bizet's “The Pearl Fishers” featured Pickersgill as Zurga and Truett as his friend and follower Nadir as they pledge to renounce their common love interest and remain loyal to one another, while Pickersgill and Lustgarten were a perfectly charming twosome in singing “La ci Darem la Mano” from Mozart's “Don Giovanni.”


Pickersgill's remarkable baritone was featured at it's best in his solo “Pierrot's Tanz Lied” from “Die tote Stadt” by Korngold, while Lustgarten and Truett returned to share the leads in excerpts from “La Boheme” by Puccini, culminating with a stage left exit while completing the song. The audience responded with thunderous applause.


During the hour-long operatic portion of the program the singers switched languages effortlessly from Italian to Spanish to German. But after intermission they switched to all-English with selections mostly drawn from Broadway hits, including “South Pacific,” “West Side Story” and “Carousel.”


Pickersgill delivered a memorable Don Quixote with three songs from 'Man of La Mancha” while Lustgarten exhibited exuberant charm in her “I Could Have Danced All Night” solo from “My Fair Lady.” Truett also used his impeccable tenor voice to great effect in singing "Climb every Mountain" from the "Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. All three singers joined in the finale "Make our Garden Grow" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."


Continuing standing applause from the audience resulted in a curtain call in which the three singers delivered a comic routine of "O Solo Mio" while continually upstaging one another, much to the delight of the audience as well as to the performers who were clearly having as much fun as their fans.


This was the first pure musical presentation at the Soper-Reese since the theater reopened its doors a month ago.


Joan Holman, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies, reminded the audience that the play "The Solid Gold Cadillac" will open in the theater in two weeks. She is one of the stars of the show.


The next program of Clear Lake Performing Arts will be on Sunday, March 30, when world-renowned pianist Tien Hsieh returns to Lake County for a 3 p.m. concert at Galilee Lutheran Church on Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville. Concert information may be obtained by calling 279-0877.


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