The White Church of Blandford was built in 1822.
It sits high on a hill in Blandford, Massachusetts, a New England town settled in 1732.
This historic building is owned by the Historical Society of Blandford and is maintained by community volunteers. It is open by appointment in the summer and is a beautiful setting for weddings and concerts.
Everyone is Welcome.
The 23rd Annual Bel Canto Opera was An Evening of Beautiful Singing
July 23, 2017 – Opera is best live, and when spectacular stage sets, full orchestras and casts are not available, an evening performance of mostly Italian opera arias from the Romantic era in a bucolic setting atop the Berkshire hills will do quite nicely. Soaring melodies, vocal acrobatics and grand passions were all on display Saturday night at the White Church in Blandford for the twenty-third annual Bel Canto Opera. Sopranos Mia Pafumi and Emma McDermott and tenors Fanyong Du and Jonathan Blalock took turns delivering on the evening’s promise of Beautiful Singing accompanied by Maestra Eve Queler and Mr. Douglas Martin.
Taking the stage first, Ms. Pafumi, adorned in an elegant, single-strapped emerald dress, set the tone with her rich, buttery timbered voice later featured in first half’s highlight “Revnava nel Silencio” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Pafumi captured the many moods of the famous aria with skill and passion, executing the blisteringly fast runs and octave skips into the stratosphere with apparent ease while delivering the song’s more somber moments with subtle, dynamic phrasing.
The two laments by Puccini and Verdi sung by Ms. McDermott wearing a beautiful dark blue gown with stylized orange wild flowers, provided a vehicle for her to dazzle the audience with her vocal virtuosity, particularly at the music’s most intense moments. “Mi chiamano Mimi” from Puccini’s La Boheme was heart wrenchingly beautiful with grand melody and vocal flourishes.
The gentlemen performers, each dressed in simple, classy black and white stayed true to the theme of vocal virtuosity. Mr. Blalock’s second appearance at Bel Canto in as many years was sung with delicacy and precision. Among his numbers was the evening’s only piece firmly rooted in the 20th century—Leonard Berstein’s “Maria” from West Side Story. The only piece sung in English, it sat in the overall program like a lone mid-century modern sofa in a lavishly Victorian home, but somehow it worked perhaps due to the subject matter and Blalock’s skill and expressivity; Bel canto indeed.
Mr. Du gave us a taste of the famous Italian tenors, particularly with his ferocious fortissimos on “O sole mio,” and “La donna e mobile” among others. The former selection was the last solo feature of the night, passionately sung and artfully placed in the program as a crowd pleaser complete with a snare drum tapping out a bolero-like figure with a little clumsiness and welcome levity.
The finale and encore featured the entire quartet singing “Brindisi,” the drinking song from Verdi’s La Traviota. It was a fitting end to a wonderful night.
Whether it was the precision, the vocal range, the expressivity or the exploding fortissimos, this performance for a packed house provided those of us in attendance a touch of great opera in an intimate and comfortable space housed in a historical structure predating even the oldest music on the program. It was a real treat.
Bravo! Thank you performers for your years of hard work, and thank you Blandford Historical Society for starting and keeping this tradition alive for twenty-three years. I cannot imagine a better way to distribute some of the Massachusetts Cultural Council grant money. Thanks for the lovely reception at intermission. It was a nice touch.
Come next year and bring some millennials with you! I couldn’t have been the only one who noticed that the youngest people in the room were on the stage. Like someone looking at a photograph of the Grand Canyon, many of those in the younger generations haven’t had the opportunity to hear quality operatic singing live. Bel Canto Opera in Blandford might create a few new fans. Come early. I’m sure it will sell out.
–By Dr. Edward Orgill
Westfield State University Department of Music