We invited a Big Night concert and gala attendee to share her experience of the event. Here's what our guest blogger, Diana Harris, had to say:
This blog is contributed by Diana Harris, author of "Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer" and Portland Opera supernumerary, last seen on the Keller stage in Pagliacci. She also serves on the Board of Directors of both Portland Opera and the Portland Baroque Orchestra.
Although I grew up hearing the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on the radio every Saturday afternoon, I didn't realize I loved opera until I bought standing-room tickets at the Old Met when I was a college student. My husband Gary and I have been subscribers and supporters of Portland Opera since we moved here nearly 20 years ago; so of course we bought tickets for the pre-concert cocktail party + concert + after-party with the cast—all the proceeds of which went to benefit POGO, Portland Opera's outreach to schools across the state.
Diana and her husband, Gary
In the event, as journalists like to say, our expectations were wildly exceeded. We were happy to see the crowd beginning to gather in and around the Keller Fountain. Once inside, we were delighted to see that so many of our fellow aficionados had purchased tickets for the benefit. Then we enjoyed delicious food and beverages before the Main Event.
Big Night Gala
A couple of additional rows of seats had been installed over the pit, because the Orchestra was on stage with the Opera Chorus and soloists. So our front row seats were only a few feet from the edge of the stage! We were glad to see Sam Adams join Chris Mattaliano to welcome the audience both within and outside Keller Auditorium and we loved the inspiring teacher, Allen Koshewa, who spoke so eloquently and humorously about his students' enthusiastic response to POGO.
Mayor Sam Adams with General Director Christopher Mattaliano
The music, of course, was wonderful. It was great to see Brendan Tuohy again and to have such a glorious introduction to the three new POSAs: Andre Chaing, Caitlin Mathes, and Lindsay Ohse, who have joined Nick Nelson for the coming season. We particularly enjoyed the duets from Lakme and The Pearl Fishers. Guest artist Maria Kanyova is a wonderfully dramatic soprano, who was so poignant as Violetta a couple of seasons back. Certainly Roger Honeywell's ringing tenor will be terrific in Butterfly this coming February. It was fun to recognize familiar faces in the Opera Chorus. Ninety minutes of music without interruption seemed the perfect length for the concert.
The curtain call after the Big Night concert
The mezzanine was crowded again after the performance, but we were able to say "Bravo, maestro" to George Manahan, catch up a bit with Brian Tuohy, and meet Caitlin Mathes. After a bit of dessert, we wandered out into the balmy darkness to watch the end of the movie: what a kick!
Christopher Mattaliano with principal artists Maria Kanyova and Roger Honeywell
The Portland Opera Studio Artists; Nicholas Nelson, Lindsay Ohse, André Chiang and Caitlin Mathes.
This is a terrific way to kick off the Opera Season—next year we'd love to hear the chorus sing "Va pensiero" from Verdi's Nabucco.
- Diana Harris