The 23rd Annual Bel Canto Opera was An Evening of Beautiful Singing


23rd Annual Bel Canto OperaJuly 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

August 2016

The 22nd Annual Bel Canto Opera Filled the House

Eve Queler and Douglas Martin once again introduced talented singers to our Blandford audience. We were honored to host Alexandra Batsios (soprano), Elizabeth de Trejo (soprano), John Kaneklides (tenor), and John Viscardi (baritone). The audience was entertained by selections from Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini.

A sincere thank you to Eve Queler, Douglas Martin and all of the performers for bringing opera to the hills of western Massachusetts.

Jami Leonard

Alexandra Batsios, Soprano

John Viscardi

John Viscardi, Baritone

Elizabeth de Trejo

Elizabeth de Trejo, Soprano

John Kaneklides

John Kaneklides, Tenor

August 2015

The 21st Annual Bel Canto Opera Filled the House

Eve Queler and Douglas Martin once again introduced talented singers to our Blandford audience. We were honored to host Jami Leonard (soprano), Ewa Plonka (soprano), Thorsteinn Arbjornsson (tenor), and John Viscardi (tenor). The audience was entertained by selections from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Donizetti’s La Favorita and Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Jami Leonard

Jami Leonard, Soprano

Thorsteinn Arbjornsson

Thorsteinn Arbjornsson, Tenor

Ewa Plonka

Ewa Plonka, Soprano

John Viscardi

John Viscardi, Tenor

August 2014

The 20th Annual Bel Canto Opera Shined

For the twentieth year, Eve Queler, Music Director Emerita of Opera Orchestra of New York and part-time Blandford resident, along with Douglas Martin, accompanist, brought spectacular talent to Blandford. We were honored to host Rochelle Bard (soprano), Ashley Kerr (soprano), John Bellemer (tenor), and Jonathon Blalock (tenor). The audience was entertained by selections from Bellini’s Norma, Franz Lehar’s Merry Widow and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Thank you again to Eve Queler, Douglas Martin and all of the performers for sharing your talents here in Blandford.


Ashley Kerr, Soprano


Jonathon Blalock, Tenor


Rochelle Bard, Soprano


John Bellemer, Tenor

July 2013

The 19th Annual Bel Canto Opera Featured Beautiful Voices Again

Once again, Eve Queler, Music Director Emerita of Opera Orchestra of New York, and Douglas Martin, accompanist, presented those in attendance with an outstanding performance. This year Blandford hosted Elise Brancheau (soprano), Lara Secord-Haid (soprano), Diego Silva (tenor), and Gustavo Feulien (baritone). Vocalists performed selections from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La Boheme, Verdi’s La Traviata and more.

Thank you to Eve Queler, Douglas Martin and the performers for bringing your lovely voices to the Hilltowns.





July 2012
The 18th Annual Bel Canto Opera Brings Big City Voices to the Hilltowns

On Saturday, July 21st, visitors to the White Church had the opportunity to hear new and exciting voices brought to us by Maestro Eve Queler. We were fortunate enough to host Megan Hart (soprano), Steven LaBrie (baritone), Samuel Levine (tenor) and Kevin Ray (tenor) on a beautiful summer evening. Accompanied by Maestro Queler and Douglas Martin, these singers shared operas from Wagner, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Bizet, and others. Thank you to all who came out for an evening to support the White Church, and most of all to Maestro Queler and the performers for bringing opera to the Hilltowns.