It was a grand night for tenors at the Capitol Theatre Monday night and for everyone else on stage or in the audience for the Glade Peterson benefit memorial concert, sponsored by the Utah Opera Company.
As choruses, overtures and arias traced Glade's operatic career, it seemed as if a certain vibrant flame blazed up one more time in the hall, to salute the spirit of the leader who left with this company a legacy of his own qualities - strength, independence and eagerness to press forward.Did you know that Glade sang his first "Carmen" in Boston with Marilyn Horne? Or that when he sang Calaf in a Munich "Turandot," he was backed up by a chorus of naked women? These and other newsy tidbits spiced master of ceremonies Fred Adams' comments. But it was the glowing reviews Adams quoted from many sources that took the measure of this respected international artist.
Tenor Hans Gregory Ashbaker well-personified the talent and spirit of the young Glade Peterson. There is a likeness in dramatic fire and timbre, something of the same "go for broke" attitude and similarity of backgrounds that turned out the same sort of self-reliant men and artists. Ashbaker was raised on a farm in Soda Springs, Idaho, where he developed the same hometown values as Peterson, who hailed from Fairview, Utah.
Ashbaker was comfortable in the repertory that made Peterson's career, beautifully scaling the heights of "Nessun dorma" from "Turandot" and skillfully pacing "Vesti la giubba" from "I Pagliacci" - still a little heavy for this young singer but delivered with uncompromising emotional thrust. Fresh as a daisy after several blockbusters, he launched the Italian serenades "O sole mio" and "Mattinata" by Leoncavallo on relaxed wings of song, still able to spin out a pianissimo after giving his all. With his melting encore, "Danny Boy," Ashbaker's conquest was complete.
Guest soprano Kay Paschal delivered with the artistry and beauty that Utah Opera has come to expect from her - Liu's touching death scene aria from "Turandot," "Je dis" from "Carmen," and in company with Ashbaker, the first act duet from "Carmen" and the ravishing final scene from Act I of "La Boheme."
The combined Pro Musica Chorus and Utah Opera Chorus gave a full-bodied account of the lusty Anvil Chorus from "Il Trovatore," spirited call to vespers from "I Pagliacci" and Drinking Song from "La Traviata" with Victoria Morris and James Miller as the vibrant soloists. The concluding Triumphal Scene from "Aida" had a few lame moments but pressed forward nonetheless to a climactic finish.
The Utah Symphony delivered a fine "Meistersinger" overture and did well by the overture to Beethoven's "Fidelio," though the horns seemed to come from very far away. Dean Ryan conducted effectively, allowing the orchestra to make its statement without overpowering the singers.
Greg Thompson, archivist from the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, presented Mardean Peterson, Glade's wife, with a tape containing a series of interviews with Peterson conducted by Wanda and Columb Robinson, in which he discussed his work with Utah Opera. And Utah Opera's new general director, Ann Ewers, expressed via telegram her regret at not being able to attend.