Manchester Music Festival Review

Manchester Music Festival Review

Rutland Herald

Music Review: Opera highlights close summer festival

By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | August 24,2015

MANCHESTER — Closing its 41st summer season, Manchester Music Festival introduced a quartet of young up-and-coming opera singers.

If they are typical of today’s young stars, American opera will be in good shape.

Particularly brilliant was Australian-born soprano Rachelle Durkin, who already performs at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. That was shown with rapid-fire articulation in “The Soldier Tir’d” from Baroque composer Thomas Arne’s “Artaxerxes,” an aria that made Rossini pyrotechnics seem sedate.

Durkin more than met the needs for expressiveness and nuance with her lyrical voice in the much deeper yet light “Prenderò quel brunettino” from Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.”

She was joined by Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule, whose unusually rich voice and expressiveness complemented Durkin’s.

All were accompanied by the able pianist Caren Levine, who coached and arranged the ensembles and program. Durkin joined Levine in the pianist’s own arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude,” in a quite moving performance.

Perhaps the most interesting performance was by bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, a product of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute. His performance of “Vyes’ tabor spit” from Rachmaninoff’s “Aleko” revealed a rich, deep and dark voice ideal for Russian modal scales, which give it that dark exotic feel.

Tenor Patrick O’Halloran, who has worked with various American opera companies, proved himself a dextrous and sensitively expressive singer in short scenes from “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata,” both by Verdi, and Gounod’s “Faust,” joined by the others. Although his voice has limited color, he was most expressive in “Lunge da lei” from “Traviata.”

Another highlight was Sproule’s deep performance of “Qui m’aurait dit la place” from Massenet’s “Werther.” The program opened with Durkin and Levine in the charming “Lo, Hear the Gentle Lark” by Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855), with beautiful flute obbligato by Jayn Rosenfeld.

The fine little chorus for the “La Traviata” was made up of participants of Manchester’s opera workshop: sopranos Mary Claire Curran and Johanna Fincher, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Paige Newman, contralto Peggie Telscher and tenor Gerardo José Ortega.

Manchester Music Festival’s annual opera gala is a perfect dessert for one of Vermont’s finest chamber music festivals.

For information about the Manchester Music Festival and its programs, call 362-1956, or go online to

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