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Forte performs at Bass Performance Hall for the 2014 Fort Worth Opera Festival

Review: Forte | Fort Worth Opera | Bass Performance Hall


America's Got Popera

The group Forte, featuring tenor Sean Panikkar, performs at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, with mixed results.



published Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photo: Michael Yeshion/Fort Worth Opera
Forte performs at Bass Performance Hall for the 2014 Fort Worth Opera Festival

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:

» 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

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America's Got Popera
The group Forte, featuring tenor Sean Panikkar, performs at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, with mixed results.
by J. Robin Coffelt

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