With a nod to a famous phrase, members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could say, "We came, we sang, we conquered."
The choir's Monday concert in Rome is being touted as one of its best and one that conquered the hearts of its audience.So well received was the choir that many in the audience stood, cheered, applauded and called out for more songs.
It seemed that the audience didn't want the choir to leave, and evidence that the choir touched their hearts was found in the tears that many wiped from their eyes, especially during the singing of "Come, Come, Ye Saints" and "I Am a Child of God." The first verses of both were sung by guest tenor soloist Robert Breault, professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Utah.
Breault stepped onto the stage of Accademia Santa Caecilia, located near the Vatican - the center of his own Catholic roots - to also perform the tenor solo in "the Gloria" from Puccini's "Messa di Gloria," or Mass of Glory. He sang with such tender yet exultant conviction that the audience seemed convinced that he was exactly where he wanted to be, singing just what he wanted to sing.
In addition to performing selections from the LDS Church and liturgical offerings from his own faith during the Tabernacle Choir's tour in Europe, Breault was soloist in a medley of songs composed by George Gershwin. The medley is being performed at each concert to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the American composer.
Breault, who earned his master's and doctorate degrees in vocal performance from the University of Michigan, has performed more than a hundred times with major symphony orchestras such as those in Montreal, Atlanta, Utah, Jerusalem and San Francisco. He also has performed with leading opera companies in North America.
Breault said a lot of his operatic colleagues express some curiosity over his singing with the choir.
"A lot of singers will ask me, `How is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Is it just a great big church choir?' I say, `No. It's an incredible choir.' I've sung with a lot of professional - paid - choirs. The Tabernacle Choir is by far the best in terms of not only its sound, musicality, professionalism and polish, but more important, it's the most supportive and spirited group of human beings I've worked with musically, period."
The choir was directed by Jerold Ottley and associate conductor Craig Jessop, and accompanied by John Longhurst, Clay Christiansen and Richard Elliott.
Ottley said of Breault: "He's not just a fine singer but can sing in many different styles, which is important, as exemplified between the Puccini and the Gershwin. He's very willing as well as capable."
Choir members spent a busy day in Rome before the concert, trying to cram into a few hours sightseeing and souvenir shopping that most tourists spread over a couple of days.
Immediately after the concert, the choir and entourage boarded buses that took them to Civitavecchia to board a cruise ship bound for France. The choir's next concert is tonight in Marseilles, France.
Still to come on the seven-country tour are performances in Barcelona, El Escorial and Madrid, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal. The tour started in London before moving to Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.