The Durham Symphony Orchestra, under the wand of William Henry Curry, performed a concert programed as “Romance in Music” at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill. Though the audience attendance may have been disappointing, Maestro Curry was a success in demonstrating to the community the quality of the sound this semi-professional ensemble is capable of producing.

Special guests for this concert were two of the Metropolitan Opera future stars being nurtured in the Juilliard School and the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Angela Vallone spent this past summer in Aix-en-Provence for a Mozart Residency. She has upcoming bookings as Susanna in Le Nozzle di Figaro at Tetra Municipal de Santiago, Second Niece in Peter Grimes, and Belinda in Dido and Aeneas in the Ensemble program at Oper Frankfort. Petr Nekoranec, who hails from the Czech Republic, is in his first year of the Lindemann program and recently won First Prize at the prestigious Francisco Viñas Singing Competition in Barcelona.

Opening with a full-bodied performance of the Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio, the orchestra captured both the boisterous humor and the delicate intimacy of Mozart’s score. Vallone then joined the Durham Symphony in a dazzling performance of Susanna’s fourth act love song “Den vieni, non tardar” from The Marriage of Figaro. Her voice had a heart-melting velvet quality, smooth and sweet, and refreshing as a drink from a cool mountain stream.

Next, the orchestra played a fiery performance of selections from Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1. The Second Act Introduction (“The Toreador Song”) was vigorous and exciting. Nekoranec then chose for his introductory aria, the irresistible “Je crois entendre encore” from The Pearl Fishers by Bizet. Now, here was a true tenor voice with the ideal timbre for romance.

The orchestra returned to the Carmen suite for the bewitching Prelude to Act 3 and the playful “Danse Boheme” (Gypsy Dance) which featured some marvelous playing by the woodwinds, especially the piccolo and flute. To bring the first half of the concert to a close, Vallone and Nekoranec joined in the playful duet “Caro elisir” from Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love. The interaction was quite effective and the singing was rhapsodic. My thought was that the odds are pretty good that one or both of these talented young people may indeed be a star of the future.

The second part of the concert began with the delightful music Mr. Arthur Sullivan composed for Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for the operetta The Pirates of Penzance. Happy and eloquent tunes from the show were played with panache.

Vallone returned to the stage to sing the beloved hit from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, “O mio babbino caro.” The full range of the soprano voice is called for in this beautiful little gem; from pianissimo to fortissimo, from lower register to upper, our young soloist accomplished it all with the confidence of a seasoned singer. For his next choice, Nekoranec sang the dramatic aria, “Povero Ernesto” from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. The controlled expressiveness of his rich voice captured all the potential of this stirring Bel Canto aria.

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story took the Broadway stage to a new level of excellence. The DSO was at its best in the performance of the Overture in the Peress arrangement. The energy, the scenic drama, the swinging tunes and dances were captivating with some extraordinary solo work from key principals. A gorgeous French horn solo by Mary Lynn van Deventer stands out in my memory.

The closing selection was the delightful “Lippen schweigen” Waltz Duet from The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. The blending of these two voices with the sensitive guidance of the orchestra by Curry’s broadly experienced wand was a joy to hear.

Enthusiastic and extended applause brought forth a rewarding encore: the well-known Drinking Song: “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” (Drink from the joyful cup) from Verdi’s La Traviata. It was an ideal crown on an afternoon of delightful and rewarding light favorites. Rumors of building a bond between the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and Triangle arts programs offer great potential for local performing arts enthusiasts.