by John W. Lambert & William Thomas Walker
It happens from time to time in North Carolina. In five days starting November 7, there were at least FOURTEEN vocal music offerings (including a masterclass and various repeat performances) at a Raleigh church, in Durham, at Campbell and UNCG, further up the road in Asheville, and down the road in Greenville. For reasons not altogether clear, there were overlapping live performances-in Asheville and Greensboro-of two operas. In the Bull City, Triangle Opera offered, on film, three operas, all bearing the always-lavish touch of Franco Zeffirelli. In Raleigh's Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, on November 7, four rich-voiced Russians, performing as Archiglas, sang a cappella religious and folk music from Russia and America; the program mixed solo and ensemble pieces and was well received by a surprisingly large crowd.
On November 8, the Campbell University Choir competed with tenor Jerry Hadley, who appeared on Duke's Artists Series. (For some comments on his recital, see our archives.) The opera film festival, which ran November 9-11 at the Carolina Theatre, featured the US premiere of Zeffirelli's RAI-TV version of Verdi's Aïda plus his well-known cinematic treatments of La traviata and Otello. This Aïda is noteworthy because it is a comparatively small scale undertaking (without elephants), filmed in the tiny opera house in Busseto, Verdi's home town. The opening night of the film festival competed with UNCG's tribute to Richard Cox, which centered on an all-star presentation of Falstaff , given in concert form (and repeated on the afternoon of November 11), and with the opening night of Asheville Lyric Opera's splendid Barber of Seville (repeated on the evening of the 10th)-both shows are reviewed elsewhere in this issue. Nor was Hadley's recital the only program of songs and arias by solo artists-November 11 brought a Nelson Music concert by soprano Penelope Jensen and pianist Jane Hawkins, and mezzo-soprano Sharon Munden and pianist John O'Brien appeared at ECU, at the end of the five-day period under discussion. And that small Russian contingent and Campbell's singers weren't the only "choral" offerings-the distinguished Vocal Arts Ensemble, led by Rodney Wynkoop, closed our mini-festival of great singing with an outstanding Duke Chapel program that included Tallis "Spem in alium," for 40 solo voices.
The Russian group Archiglas, based at the Lutheran Seminary in St. Petersburg, is a quartet worth hearing, for its members include a low, rumbling basso and a stunning mezzo-soprano, and all of its singers apparently have extensive operatic and concert experience. They spend a lot of time on the road, appearing mostly in churches, and their concert was impressive from start to finish. For information about engaging them for your house of worship, see http://www.archiglas.com/ [inactive 12/09]. The fact that these folks travel on a shoestring has no bearing on their artistry, which is significant.
We're enjoying a run of fine tenors in the Triangle. October brought Rockwell Blake, whose Durham recital was reviewed in these pages, and on November 18, Ben Heppner makes his local debut on the NC Symphony's Great Artists Series, more or less on Hadley's heels. The engagements of these distinguished singers in such close proximity here speak volumes about the growing importance of the Triangle's cultural offerings. We've always thought our region is special, but having three world-class tenors in a row is unusual by any standard.