Local talent enriches classical performances

Louisiana is widely known for its rich musical history and for sharing a slew of homegrown jazz, Cajun and popular music stars with the world at large. But less well known is that a sizeable number of classical music stars who regularly appear on the world’s stages also were born and nurtured in the Bayou State.

Local orchestral, operatic and ballet performances often feature some of these home-town performers. In the coming months several of them will appear with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Orleans Opera.

In March, for instance, New Orleans native and soprano Angela Mannino will take the stage with the LPO. Now a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, she is a graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans and Indiana University, and has performed with the New Orleans Opera on several occasions and in locally produced musicals from “Fiddler on the Roof” to Oklahoma.”

In her March 19 appearance with the LPO, Mannino will solo in the orchestra’s presentation of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Later in the season, look for several Louisiana natives among the cast as the LPO joins with the New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale to perform Verdi’s Requiem. Performing with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong in the May 23 concert will be Lori Guilbeau, Paul Groves and Alfred Walker.

A native of Golden Meadow, La., soprano Guilbeau made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2012 as the High Priestess in “Aida,” winning praise from the New York Times.  Acclaimed performances followed at Carnegie Hall and at the Theater Kiel in Kiel, Germany, among many others.

Tenor Paul Groves, who debuted at La Scala in 1995 as Tamino in “Die Zauberflöte,” is well known in the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls. He has worked with the best, from Placido Domingo to Renee Fleming, but close friends know him as family man, a fan of the New Orleans Saints and an avid fisherman in love with his south Louisiana home.

A native of Lake Charles, Groves lives in Mandeville with his wife and young children, and sometimes invites visiting opera stars to join him for offshore fishing excursions launching from Venice, La.

Rounding out the Requiem cast is bass-baritone Alfred Walker, a graduate of Dillard University, Loyola University and the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Program. Walker has won international acclaim for his commanding performances, including the title role of Der fliegende Holländer, sung at the Wagner Geneva Festival in 2014.

The New Orleans Opera frequently brings home-grown talent back to the local stage, and audiences at Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts have often enjoyed  performances by New Orleans-born soprano Sarah Jane McMahon, whose many  local appearances have included duets with the great Domingo.

And last fall superstar tenor Bryan Hymel, a graduate of Jesuit High School and Loyola University, and a fixture of the Metropolitan Opera, brought his celebrated voice to the city for the local opera’s production of “Carmen.”

While doing some of his favorite things around town, Hymel stopped by Central Grocery in the French Quarter for a muffaletta, and ended up serenading patrons with an impromptu performance (see it at www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2014/10/bryan_hymel_brought_star_power.html ).

“My family has been coming to Central Grocery for muffalettas for five generations,” Hymel explained after performing an abbreviated “La donna é mobile” from “Rigoletto.”
Noting that he and his wife recently purchased a home in Metairie, he told a reporter: “We’re living right next door to my grandma, and we just love being back here.”

Local talent enriches classical performances
Soprano Angela Mannino

Local talent enriches classical performances
Tenor Bryan Hymel (photo by Dario Acosta)

Local talent enriches classical performances
Bass-baritone Alfred Walker (photo by Walter Hill)



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