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The Three Sopranos

The Three Sopranos (Century Plaza Towers; 2,200 seats; $ 100 top) Presented by Tibor Rudas. Performers: Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian, Cynthia Lawrence , with the Hollywood Festival Orchestra, conducted by Marco Armiliato. With the phenomenon of the Three Tenors still packing stadiums across the globe, their voices ringing from the PBS airwaves more often than Jane Austen accents, small wonder that Tibor Rudas, the impresario behind the teaming, hit upon the idea of orchestrating a distaff version. And so Los Angeles saw the world premiere Thursday night of the Three Sopranos, in a feminine facsimile of the tenors' '94 Dodger Stadium outing, scaled down a notch or two in accordance with the lack of a key ingredient: the worldwide fame of the participants. Whether it was motivated by an earnest desire to return the diva to the top of the operatic heap, as his introductory program note suggested, or an inability to find two famed sopranos willing to share the stage with, say, Kathleen Battle, Rudas' aim this time is not to capitalize on his singers' fame but to create it. The trio of singers chosen to be morphed into one marketing entity Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian and Cynthia Lawrence are young singers whose credits include, collectively at least, most of the world's major opera houses, but none is a star by opera-world standards. And Cassello and Lawrence will apparently be making their recording debuts with the release of the Atlantic Records disc of the concert. Making its debut also was the concert's venue itself, a Century City plaza located between the back of the Shubert Theater complex and two office towers that was fitted with some 2,000 seats seemingly manufactured for a waif model convention, and an impressively scaled stage bedecked with miles of white chiffon and a truckload of lavender-accented flora giving a good impression of plastic. While waiting for the show to start, viewers could look to the towers and play spot-the-perplexed-janitorial-worker. Cameras swooped hither and thither, recording the event for posterity by way of the Public Broadcasting Service, for which a December airdate has been arranged. The singers took the stage in black gowns with suspiciously similar detailing; one couldn't but suspect that matters of cleavage and leg display had been carefully negotiated. But to put at last all matters of hype and hoopla aside, let it be said that when the diamond chips were down (Van Cleef and Arpels), the ladies could sing. Beginning with a poperatic medley consisting of Musetta's waltz from "La Boheme," the Jewel song from "Faust," the inevitable "O mio babbino caro" and a "Carmen" tune or two, the trio displayed impressive vocal resources and considerable style. Esperian, the most established of the trio with several Met, Covent Garden and La Scala stints on her resume, seemed most at ease, and her darker-hued voice made for a commanding "Vissi d'arte," and, in the English-language latter half, a lovely if predictably overstyled rendition of Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are." Lawrence, with a powerful lyric soprano, did fine by "Un bel di" and Nedda's aria from "Pagliacci." Cassello, whose lighter bel canto voice was less suited to the evening's belting-is-best format, got the plum assignment of the solo "Sempre libera," though she paid for the privilege by having to do battle with air traffic overhead. And together, of course, the trio tripped through a veritable medley of medleys, following the opera opener with a tour of European operetta that may have been the evening's highlight, suited as it was to the wedding-cake stage and the populist aim of the enterprise. Also on tap was a shorter English-operetta interlude, a "Latin Songs Medley," and the show closer, an "Evergreen American Musical Medley" arranged by Peter Matz, with the diva treatment being given to "I Feel Pretty," "Where or When" and, more suitably, "You'll Never Walk Alone." Acoustics in the odd venue were surprisingly comfortable, although the sound system was much kinder to the voices than it was to the orchestra, under young Italian maestro Marco Armiliato. The non-vocal interludes the overtures to "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "The Bartered Bride" sounded processed. Encores were three, and honestly earned. Though musical connoisseurs may cringe, the trio trading trills in the rerun of "Sempre libera" was a real delight. The somewhat stagy air of comic camaraderie among the singers seemed forced but then so it did with Messrs. Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti. Whether three stars of that order were instantly born on the Century City plaza is dubious, the major marketing apparatus notwithstanding, but in any case three accomplished singers put on a lovely show. Charles Isherwood The Three Sopranos

The Three Sopranos (Century Plaza Towers; 2,200 seats; $ 100 top) Presented by Tibor Rudas. Performers: Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian, Cynthia Lawrence , with the Hollywood Festival Orchestra, conducted by Marco Armiliato. With the phenomenon of the Three Tenors still packing stadiums across the globe, their voices ringing from the PBS airwaves more often than Jane Austen accents, small wonder that Tibor Rudas, the impresario behind the teaming, hit upon the idea of orchestrating a distaff version. And so Los Angeles saw the world premiere Thursday night of the Three Sopranos, in a feminine facsimile of the tenors’ ’94 Dodger Stadium outing, scaled down a notch or two in accordance with the lack of a key ingredient: the worldwide fame of the participants. Whether it was motivated by an earnest desire to return the diva to the top of the operatic heap, as his introductory program note suggested, or an inability to find two famed sopranos willing to share the stage with, say, Kathleen Battle, Rudas’ aim this time is not to capitalize on his singers’ fame but to create it. The trio of singers chosen to be morphed into one marketing entity Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian and Cynthia Lawrence are young singers whose credits include, collectively at least, most of the world’s major opera houses, but none is a star by opera-world standards. And Cassello and Lawrence will apparently be making their recording debuts with the release of the Atlantic Records disc of the concert. Making its debut also was the concert’s venue itself, a Century City plaza located between the back of the Shubert Theater complex and two office towers that was fitted with some 2,000 seats seemingly manufactured for a waif model convention, and an impressively scaled stage bedecked with miles of white chiffon and a truckload of lavender-accented flora giving a good impression of plastic. While waiting for the show to start, viewers could look to the towers and play spot-the-perplexed-janitorial-worker. Cameras swooped hither and thither, recording the event for posterity by way of the Public Broadcasting Service, for which a December airdate has been arranged. The singers took the stage in black gowns with suspiciously similar detailing; one couldn’t but suspect that matters of cleavage and leg display had been carefully negotiated. But to put at last all matters of hype and hoopla aside, let it be said that when the diamond chips were down (Van Cleef and Arpels), the ladies could sing. Beginning with a poperatic medley consisting of Musetta’s waltz from “La Boheme,” the Jewel song from “Faust,” the inevitable “O mio babbino caro” and a “Carmen” tune or two, the trio displayed impressive vocal resources and considerable style. Esperian, the most established of the trio with several Met, Covent Garden and La Scala stints on her resume, seemed most at ease, and her darker-hued voice made for a commanding “Vissi d’arte,” and, in the English-language latter half, a lovely if predictably overstyled rendition of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are.” Lawrence, with a powerful lyric soprano, did fine by “Un bel di” and Nedda’s aria from “Pagliacci.” Cassello, whose lighter bel canto voice was less suited to the evening’s belting-is-best format, got the plum assignment of the solo “Sempre libera,” though she paid for the privilege by having to do battle with air traffic overhead. And together, of course, the trio tripped through a veritable medley of medleys, following the opera opener with a tour of European operetta that may have been the evening’s highlight, suited as it was to the wedding-cake stage and the populist aim of the enterprise. Also on tap was a shorter English-operetta interlude, a “Latin Songs Medley,” and the show closer, an “Evergreen American Musical Medley” arranged by Peter Matz, with the diva treatment being given to “I Feel Pretty,” “Where or When” and, more suitably, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Acoustics in the odd venue were surprisingly comfortable, although the sound system was much kinder to the voices than it was to the orchestra, under young Italian maestro Marco Armiliato. The non-vocal interludes the overtures to “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “The Bartered Bride” sounded processed. Encores were three, and honestly earned. Though musical connoisseurs may cringe, the trio trading trills in the rerun of “Sempre libera” was a real delight. The somewhat stagy air of comic camaraderie among the singers seemed forced but then so it did with Messrs. Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti. Whether three stars of that order were instantly born on the Century City plaza is dubious, the major marketing apparatus notwithstanding, but in any case three accomplished singers put on a lovely show. Charles Isherwood The Three Sopranos

The Three Sopranos

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