Opera concert rocks Joe Fox Auditorium

By BILL BLANC

Late-evening passersby outside the Historic USO Building this past Friday and Saturday might have thought they heard cheers for something like the giant-screen projection of a Super Bowl game.

Instead, the full-throated accolades and boisterous applause rolling from within came from sold-out audiences for “Random Acts Of Opera,” a program of operatic selections performed by IWV singers demonstrating a much-appreciated level of artistry.

The Ridgecrest Opera Guild, recently founded by local voice instructor David Hodgson, offered crowd-pleasing arias and small-ensemble numbers from “Tosca,” “La Bohème,” “Rigoletto” and “The Magic Flute,” all launched by a rousing rendition of the last-named’s overture by a 20-piece orchestra under the baton of conductor Marla Cosner.

With expert, often-complex accompaniment by pianist Lee Alan Nolan, the 13 vocalists demonstrated their capability in numbers that ranged from grippingly serious to rib-tickling exuberant.

English-language super titles kept the audience abreast of passages sung in Italian or German.

Charming in their female character assignments were sopranos Holly Hodgson, Dianna Taylor, Korinza Shlanta and Celese Sanders, along with mezzo-sopranos Kathryn García and Samantha Harrison.

Tenors Evan White, Brandon Steele and Phillip Randolph, baritones Cameron Labrie and David Hodgson, and basses Tim Little and Nathaniel Clair handled the male roles with deft assurance.

“They couldn’t have been more encouraging!” said impresario Hodgson of his audiences. “A large majority indicated by show of hands that they had never previously attended an opera performance.”

Spectator feedback suggested to him that the company’s informal presentation style sparked the applause-packed response to a musical genre scarce in today’s entertainment mass-distribution modes.

Audience members already familiar with the art form voiced comments along the lines of: “Beautiful, natural voices without that distorted, metallic quality microphones and speakers would have added!” and “These young people clearly felt what they were singing about!”

Future projects under consideration by the guild include a concert staging of “La Bohème,” which members hope to present before the end of this year. Meantime, opera fans new and old might consider catching a presentation of this Puccini masterpiece in the city of La Verne on April 27 and May 1.

Three Ridgecrest Opera Guild men — Hodgson, White and Little —will perform alongside professional singers drawn from L. A. Opera and L. A. Master Choral under the direction of Los Angeles Guild Opera artistic director Gabriel Reoyo Pazo.

For more information about the Laverne performance or about the Ridgecrest OPera Guild, Hodgson invites interested persons to call him at 760-977-1993.

Story First Published: 2013-03-20