Opera singers wow audience at Franklin Park

The audience applauds the opera performances. Photos by Ellen St. Thomas.

The audience applauds the opera performances. Photos by Ellen St. Thomas.

Alameda soprano Kendra Dodd, who just graduated from Encinal High School, sang at Open Opera's Saturday afternoon recital in Franklin Park. Dodd will attend the Manhattan School of Music this fall.
Alameda soprano Kendra Dodd, a 2009 EHS graduate, sang at Open Opera.

Jon Spangler wrote a press release about last weekend’s opera performances at Franklin Park. Sounds like the show was a hit.

“A dozen opera singers from Open Opera serenaded more than 200 music lovers in a free recital Saturday afternoon at Franklin Park.

Open Opera’s first Alameda appearance featured over two hours of art songs and opera favorites on a sunny afternoon. A cast of ten singers, mostly from the Bay Area, presented 24 art songs, arias, duets, and quartets from well-known operas, accompanied by Alameda’s own James Meredith.

Kendra Dodd, who just graduated from Encinal High School and studies voice with David Tigner and James Meredith, was one of the crowd’s favorites. “It was a beautiful family event, and one of the best productions that the community has seen in a while,” Dodd said. “The musicians volunteered their time for this, and they were all fantastic.” Dodd will attend the Manhattan School of Music this fall.

The crowd also enjoyed Alameda soprano Eileen Meredith, who “had a wonderful time” singing at Franklin Park. “I’m in love with this music, and I really enjoy sharing it. Sitting in a gorgeous natural setting listening to music is very inspiring. It was great to see the turnout of friends, family, neighbors, teachers, parents, and kids from Alameda and beyond.” Meredith also helped recruit musicians and publicize the concert. Alameda tenor Raymond Chavez, known for his work with the Alameda Civic Light Opera, sang pieces by Cilea and Massenet for the many listeners of all ages.

Well-known Bay Area singers such as Heather McFadden, Sigmund Siegel, Katya Roemer, Leland Morine, Marta Johansen, Elender Wall, and Elizabeth Baker sang famous arias and duets from operas by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Bizet, as well as lesser-known works. Young tenor Taylor Thompson, who sang two pieces, is a graduate of Fairfield’s Rodriguez High School and will attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Patrick Russi and his crew from the Alameda Parks and Recreation Department were crucial to making the event such a success,” said Ellen St. Thomas, the Executive Director of Open Opera. “They were friendly, extremely helpful, and made the event very easy logistically. Franklin Park was beautiful, too.” She added that Open Opera would like to make this an annual event in Alameda.

Open Opera (www.openopera.net) will present “The Marriage of Figaro” (“Le Nozze di Figaro”) at John Hinkle Park in Berkeley on July 25-26 at 3:00 p.m. The free opera production will include costumes and a full orchestra, and will feature many of the artists who performed in Alameda Saturday afternoon.

Alameda resident Ursula Apel, Director of the San Francisco Opera Guild, co-hosted the Franklin Park program with David Tigner. Founded in 2008, Open Opera “combines classical music with natural elements to create a one-of-a-kind experience for singers and listeners alike,” according to its web site.

“We’re bringing opera to the public for free in a time of economic uncertainty, and using public outdoor spaces to build community through the arts. You could see it in the diversity of the audience. The kids were listening from up the trees,” according to soprano Elizabeth Baker, who serves as Open Opera’s Creative Director.

Open Opera is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.”

For more information on the marriage of Figaro and Open Opera, visit www.openopera.net or contact Executive Director Ellen St. Thomas (ellen@openopera.net; 510-547-2471).