Commonwealth Opera announces Annual Gala Concert

Date: 5/12/2009

SPRINGFIELD - As welcome as the flowers in May is the annual Gala Concert presented each year by Commonwealth Opera. An afternoon of great music from both opera and the musical stage will be presented May 17 at 3 p.m., amid the beauty and splendor of the architectural treasure that is Trinity United Methodist Church, Sumner Avenue.

The concert, intended both as a celebration and as a fundraising event, will also feature an elegant dinner at A Touch of Garlic Restaurant, Forest Park, Springfield. The dinner is limited to 80 people.

The guest artists include soprano Julia Rolwing, tenor Brian Landry, soprano Laura Shofner, mezzo-soprano Lisa Woods, baritone Tom Sinabaldi and baritone Brandon Milardo. Pianist Stephen Scarlato will accompany them.

In addition, the new but critically acclaimed choral group Lyricora will perform, under the direction of C. Thomas Brooks and will be accompanied by pianist Michael Munroe.

Rolwing's versatility ranges from Wagner to Puccini to Mozart. She has performed throughout the United States in opera, concert and recital. Her stage work includes the title roles in Verdi's "Aida," Pucinni's "Tosca," Massenet's "Cendrillon (Cinderella)" and Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas." She has been the leading lady in works of Mozart: Donna Anna in "Don Giovanni" and Countess Almaviva in "Le Nozze di Figaro." She has also played the mothers in both Hunperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel" and Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." She is the first place winner in the 2007 Liederkranz Foundation Awards in the Wagner division, and the recent recipient of top awards from The Wagner Societies of Washington, D.C., New York, and Wagner Society of Northern California, and the Anna Sosenko Artists Trust. She is a native of Ohio, who now lives in New York City.

Landry is a rising star in music, with a huge tenor voice and an amazing range. He has performed the role of Calaf in Pucinni's "Turandot," and the title role of Verdi's "Otello." He studied in Busseto, Italy, under the world-famous Carlo Bergonzi, and has sung in numerous concerts throughout Massachusetts. A true lyrico-spinto tenor, he will perform works by Puccini and Verdi.

Shofner (soprano) moved from her native Oklahoma to earn a graduate degree in Opera Performance at Longy School of Music. She will make several debuts with professional companies in the near future. She will sing Ida in the Manhattan Opera's production of "Die Fledermaus." In addition she will appear with Metro West Opera as Miss Silverpeal in "The Impresario;" Bronx Opera as Papagena in "The Magic Flute;" Riverside Theater Works in "Smokey Joe's Caf ," and with Salt Marsh Opera as Sally in "Die Fledermaus." Shofner won first place in both the classical and musical theater divisions of Boston NATS competition in 2008, and has been a young artist with the Key West Symphony.

Woods (mezzo-soprano) is well known and much loved by Commonwealth Opera audiences not only for her rich voice, but also for her ability to portray a wide range of characters from deadly serious to engagingly silly. This season she appeared in Commonwealth Opera's productions of "Madama Butterfly" (as Suzuki) and as the far less serious Molly in "Threepenny Opera." Her other appearances with Commonwealth Opera include prior Gala Concerts, and as Giovanna in "Rigoletto," and as the housekeeper in Man of LaMancha. She was featured as the mezzo soloist for Berkshire Concert Choir's performance of Vivaldi's "Gloria." In addition, she appeared in the Worcester Opera Works' concert version of "The Magic Flute."

Sinabaldi (baritone) began as a dancer before expanding his career to include singing and acting. He is a perennial favorite of Commonwealth Opera, having appeared in its productions of "Camelot," "Gianni Schicchi," "My Fair Lady," "Kismet" and "Oklahoma." He has also performed with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, Brandenberg Opera, Dicapo Opera Theater, Opera at the Hamptons and Opera Northeast. Sinabaldi appeared in off-Broadway productions of "Little Johnny Jones" and "Babes in Toyland." In addition to roles in "West Side Story," "Guys and Dolls," "Dames at Sea," "South Pacific" and "Showboat," Sinabaldi has impressive credentials as a television actor, having appeared in "Law and Order," "The Equalizer," "All My Children" and "The Guiding Light."

Lyricora, which was formed in 2006, is devoted to preserving the rich heritage of choral singing in New England. Its members include music educators and performers from throughout the Boston area, under the direction of C. Thomas Brooks, professor of music at Hart College, Hartford, Conn. Professor Brooks, who has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, will lead Lyricora through a varied program that will include selections from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."

Tickets for the concert and dinner can be purchased by calling Commonwealth Opera at 586-5026, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets for the concert only will also be available at the door. Preferred seating for the concert is $40, with the dinner $75. General admission seating is $25, with dinner $60. All reservations for the dinner must be made in advance by phone. The dinner is limited to 80 reservations.