Utah Opera Chorus and the Utah Symphony joined forces Thursday night to present a free concert at the new Valley Park in Taylorsville. A good-sized crowd seated on blankets and lawn chairs was treated to a program of operatic music that contained so many well-known favorites there may not be anything left to sing on next year's concert.
In this second annual edition of "Singin' in the Park," soprano Karen Anderson and tenor Tonio diPaolo were the featured soloists, with conductors Joel Revsen and Douglas Kinney-Frost at the podium. The stage, beneath a canvas pavilion, was stuffed to its limit with the orchestra and chorus, while the listeners sat beneath a canopy of clear blue sky.The audience, comprising a broad spectrum of the local population - including many young families - was reminded that the concert was made possible through the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks Program, funded by a voter-approved sales tax increase. The beautiful new park and the first-rate music gave the crowd a chance to see what is being done with that revenue, and they seemed to approve heartily.
Excerpts from Bizet's ever-popular opera "Carmen" opened the evening, but instead of one of the usual orchestral suites, this grouping included some of the great chorus selections from the opera. The Utah Opera Chorus seems to get better every year and was in fine fettle as they recreated Bizet's delightful crowd scenes, complete with shouted exclamations and gestures.
Despite the difficulties of performing outdoors and with microphones (a dreaded prospect for any opera singer) the sound of both orchestra and chorus was crisp and clear. The chorus performed well throughout the evening, with the women's section displaying an especially fine, focused tone.
Tenor Tonio diPaolo has won many fans in Utah through his appearances with Utah Opera Company, and it was easy to see why he is so popular here. He has the full warm sound of a fine tenor in his prime (not past it, like three certain tenors who come to mind), and has a personality as glowing and expansive as his golden voice. He found the grand passion in Puccini's `Nessun dorma," and the right amount of affectionate schmaltz in the ubiquitous "O sole mio."
Utah-born soprano Karen Anderson was also good, especially when paired with diPaolo, as in Rodolfo and Mimi's love scene from Puccini's "La Boheme." Their soaring duet was definitely music to fall in love by. Not bad, for a free concert. Very good, in fact.