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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013

That’s Amore: Operatic Love Songs by the Florentine Opera

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Simple, elegant and pure unamplified talent. These few words sum up the wonderful experience that was the Florentine Opera’s “That’s Amore,” a showcase of mostly musical theatre songs performed by the company’s Studio Artists. Never before had I heard many of these songs, much less in operatic form, and even so none of their heart and soul was lost on me.

Performed in the modest-sized Vogel Hall, the only thing disappointing was the turnout. The show ran Friday through Sunday, Feb. 8-10, but on Saturday night the place didn’t even appear half full. Even so, those present were simply vibrant with anticipation and that made the experience even more enjoyable.

Better yet, the singers performed as if in front of thousands. Every note was wonderfully clear and the accompanying pianist (Eileen Huston) and bass violinist (Charles Grosz) complemented each musician’s vocal styling superbly.

The performers, Alisa Suzanne Jordheim (soprano), Kristen DiNinno (mezzo- soprano), Kevin Newell (tenor) and Carl Frank (bass-baritone), are clearly on top of their game. Not one note could have been deemed sour or off key, and Jordheim amazed and enthralled as she reached piercingly high notes with wonderful confidence and ease.

This 97-minute concert took the audience through some of the best love songs by some of the most famous composers and lyricists writing between 1905 and 1955. Standouts included Roger and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “Younger Than Springtime” as well as four defining selections from the George and Ira Gershwin’s catalog. 

The Florentine’s general director William Florescu introduced many of the songs. In some cases, he provided helpful information. A minor irritation for me was that it sometimes felt like a teacher talking to very young children.

Of course, no show can be called “That’s Amore” and not pay homage to the song from whence it its title is derived. The concert ended with a solid if somewhat uninspired rendition of the Brooks & Warren classic. The half-attempt to get the crowd to sing along could well have been skipped. Save the sing-alongs for rock concerts.

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