Fort Worth — The three tenors who comprise Forte, Josh Page, Sean Panikkar and Fernando Varela, were finalists on America’s Got Talent last year. They suggested, in their remarks from the stage, that audience members in the fairly full house knew of them because of the TV show. The cheers from the crowd suggested that to be so.
Although this concert is part of the Fort Worth Opera’s 2014 Festival, only one of the three tenors, Sean Panikkar, is truly an opera singer. He is performing the role of Nadir in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, which opened Saturday. The others, while they have robust, classically trained voices, are not conventional operatic tenors. This makes for an interesting mix when they sing together: sometimes compelling, sometimes problematic.
The trio was backed by live pianist Kyle Mattingly, but the rest of their accompaniment was pre-recorded, with the attendant limitations of that situation. When backing music is prerecorded, soloists must match the recording in tempo and style, rather than the accompanist following the soloist. So musical expression is limited. Additionally, the three were miked, which is a bit unfamiliar for those of us accustomed to traditional opera performances. Varela and Page had difficulty matching pitch for much of the evening, perhaps because of sound issues.
The three tenors performed several songs as a trio, and each performed two songs as soloists. They are very different soloists—Panikkar chose “The Lord’s Prayer,” in honor of Easter, and the aria “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Franz Lehár’s operetta The Land of Smiles. In marked contrast, Varela sang Roy Orbison while Page chose “Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules and Don McLean’s “Vincent.” These songs were well-chosen to illustrate each singer’s strengths. Pianist Mattingly also got his turn with a couple of solo pieces, including a truncated solo piano arrangement of parts of Rhapsody in Blue.
While many of the songs they chose worked well for them—The Beatles’ “Something,” a medley of “Vegas songs,” as they put it—others, including some that gained them fame on America’s Got Talent, worked less well. Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” from West Side Story, originally a duet between a woman and her dying lover, is simply odd when sung by three men. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” though a beautiful song, has become ubiquitous; and the show’s finale, “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, but in Spanish, is again overdone, no matter the language.
Still, at a time with “popera” outfits are striving to introduce opera to new audiences, with more time together, Forte could be the talent America’s looking for.
Other reviews from the 2014 Fort Worth Opera Festival:
- Bizet's The Pearl Fishers
- World premiere of Daniel Crozier and Peter M. Krask's With Blood, With Ink
» The 2014 Fort Worth Opera Festival features Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, Daniel Crozier and Peter M. Krask's With Blood, With Ink, Mozart's Così fan tutte and the regional premiere of Silent Night by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell. Frontiers, the showcase of snippets from new works, returns for a second year. Here's the complete schedule for the Fort Worth Opera Festival:
Friday, April 25 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Saturday, April 26 2:00 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Saturday, April 26 7:30 p.m. Bass Hall Così fan tutte
Sunday, April 27 2:00 p.m. Bass Hall The Pearl Fishers
Sunday, April 27 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Tuesday, April 29 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Friday, May 2 7:30 p.m. Bass Hall The Pearl Fishers
Saturday, May 3 2:00 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Saturday, May 3 7:30 p.m. Bass Hall Così fan tutte
Sunday, May 4 2:00 p.m. Bass Hall Silent Night
Sunday, May 4 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Tuesday, May 6 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Wednesday, May 7 7:30 p.m McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Thursday, May 8 6:00 p.m McDavid Studio Frontiers Showcase #1
Friday, May 9 6:00 p.m. McDavid Studio Frontiers Showcase #2
Friday, May 9 7:30 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Saturday, May 10 2:00 p.m. McDavid Studio With Blood, With Ink
Saturday, May 10 7:30 p.m. Bass Hall Silent Night
Sunday, May 11 2:00 p.m. Bass Hall Così fan tutte