Flicka and Ramey: A Concert for the Ages

Date and Venue 11 June 2009, 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Programme: Berlioz excerpts from Le Damnation de Faust, Boito excerpts from Mefistofele Heggie Don't Say a Word (Dead Man Walking) Thomas Connais-tu le pays (Mignon) Offenbach Vous, aimes le danger...Ah! que j'aime les militaires! (Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein) Copland Old American Songs & Waltz (Billy the Kid) Rodgers People Will Say We're in Love (Oklahoma) Gershwin Call The Whole Thing Off (Shall We Dance)

Conductor Bramwell Tovey

Featured performers Frederica von Stade mezzo-soprano, Samuel Ramey bass-baritone

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Recognized as one of the most beloved musical figures of our time, the exuberant Frederica von Stade better known as ‘Flicka’ made her VSO debut together with the enticingly charismatic Samuel Ramey, the world’s foremost operatic bass-baritone. These two extraordinary artists, at the peak of their careers, performed music by 19th century classic European composers Berlioz, Boito, Offenbach and Thomas, as well as popular American composers of the 20th century: Heggie, Copland, Rodgers and Gershwin.

It was a terrific show, a lot of electricity going through the Orpheum, for this magnificent concert. At the end of the performance, there were applauses and shouts for an encore number from the audience, and even the VSO members were applauding for an encore, but the house lights came up to signal adieu. What the audience felt was that Flicka and Ramey were having a lot of fun...such excellent rapport not only with each other but also with the audience.

The first part of the programme was more or less the "serious" part with arias from 19th century composers. I was amused by Ramey's rendition of "Ecco il mondo" from Boito's Mefistole. He started off with a devilish laughter which provoked a few giggles from the audience, then he went on to sing the aria from Act Two of this opera where the Devil declares his hatred for mankind. What a powerful perfomance!.

Flicka followed with a poignant aria from Heggie's "Don't Say a Word" from his first opera Dead Man Walking, which premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 2000. Flicka was in the original cast playing Mrs. Derocher, the condemned man's mother. Her renditin of this piece was exquisite. Afterwards, she sang Offenbach's "Vous, aimes le danger...Ah! que j'aime les militaires!" (Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein), a witty and charming aria as the Duchess sings of her love of soldiers, including their moustaches. The audience enjoyed this piece.

After the intermission, the fun began. We were amused as these two extraordinary artists sang duets. "I Bought Me A Cat" from Copland's Old American Songs prompted laughter from the audience, especially Flicka's "quack-quacking" as she sang, purposefully off-tune, mimicking a duck. The evening ended with two popular hits: Rodgers' "People Will Say We're in Love" (Oklahoma) and Gershwin's " Call The Whole Thing Off" (Shall We Dance).Both performers sang their hearts out and played their parts as though they were performing in a Broadway musical. Everyone was also pleasantly surprised when Conductor Tovey stepped out of his high horse as conductor and came down to the level of the orchestra to play the piano and accompany the singers! I could sense a feeling of nostalgia as the audience, composed mostly of seniors, reminisced and almost sang along with these fantastic singers as these Broadway numbers were rendered.

It was an evening to remember, as VSO ends its Specials series with this memorable Concert for the Ages .

© 2009 Ed Farolan