International Traditions Abound At Bare Opera’s 2018 Holiday Concert

By David Salazar

A few years ago, four women put their heads together and decided that they wanted to create an opera company. The result was a company, Bare Opera, that in three years has presented a number of unique concerts with such titles as “Karaoke,” and “Love is Love,” as well as a number of opera productions, including a panoramic view of “The Barber of Seville” in the context of “Le Nozze di Figaro.”

Now Bare Opera, the fruit of that creation by Kirsten Scott, Laetitia Ruccolo, and Min Lew is in the midst of its third season which already featured a deeply intense and passionate reading of the Monteverdi’s “Poppea.”

But on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, the mood was quite different with the company putting on one of its signature theme-based concerts. This event focused on celebrating the holidays and Scott, the company’s Artistic Director, noted “that will become an annual event starting this year.”

The concert, which took place at the lax work space of The New Work Project, featured an international survey of holiday classics. Additionally, all the artists noted special and unique traditions that contextualized their selections.

Scott kicked things off with a rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” later noting that her immediate family had recently moved to Connecticut and would be spending its first holiday experience with her on the East Coast. Her grandparents and mother were in attendance and received a special dedication from Scott before she later returned to the stage for a trio performance of “White Christmas.”

Scott was followed by French-Argentinean soprano Eugenia Forteza, who presented two songs from Argentina, “Hermano” by Guastavino” and “Caballito Criollo” by Ugarte, in her first performance with Bare Opera (she was the cover for the title role in “Poppea”). The soprano, who is also the founder of 360 of Opera, noted that she often performs the “Hermano” during the holiday season for friends and family.

Korean Tenor SungWook Kim performed “Every Valley” from Handel’s “Messiah,” and dedicated the performance to a friend who was in attendance at the concert and was hearing him sing for the very first time.

Mezzo-soprano Inbar Goldmann then performed three Jewish songs, “Shivchi Maoz,” “Ocho Kandelikas,” and “Avraham Avinu,” the latter two in Ladino language. She would perform “A Piece of Sky” from “Yentl” near the close of the program.

Baritone Matthan Ring Black, who is a founding member of the Chicago Fringe Opera and has appeared with both Chicago Opera Theater and Lyric Opera of Chicago, entered the space with his guitar and sat as close to the audience as he could on a sofa in the middle of the space. He talked about being far away from his hometown in Arkansas,  but found respite in performing “I’ll be home for Christmas.” He also performed alongside Forteza and Scott in a rendition of “White Christmas.”

Ruccolo then stood up from the piano (she accompanied every performer) and noted that she came from Strasbourg, France, “the world capital of Christmas.” She led Kim and French soprano Claire de Monteil, also in her first Bare Opera appearance, in “O Holy Night,” which was performed in the original French, then Korean, and finally in English.

Scott performed Orlofsky’s famed “Chacun à son gout” from “Die Fledermaus” and was followed by De Monteil in a performance of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” De Monteil, a recent winner of the Elizabeth Connell Prize, also closed the program as the soloist in “Libiamo” from “La Traviata;” Kim performed the role of Alfredo while the entire cast of singers took on the chorus for the big finale.

Next up, the company is preparing for its second big production of the season, “Maria de Buenos Aires,” set to take the stage at the Blue Building on April 5, 6, and 7.


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