Monday, June 13, 2016

Puccini Without Mosquitos

The weather was perfectly bug-free for an outdoor concert Sunday afternoon by four international talents in Soirée Lyrique's "Pop-Opera" on the Terrace of Snuffy's Villa. 

The Terrace is actually a large lawn surrounded by mature trees and beautiful landscaping in a rural residential area of West Dundee. Approximately seventy people gathered with lawn chairs and cool drinks around an improvised stage, amidst breezes and birdsong.

The 90-minute program consisted of more than twenty short works from musical theatre, opera and popular music dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and ran the gamut from Puccini's poignant "O mio babbino caro" to Romberg & Donnelly's "Drinking Song."

Ad libbing between numbers and hamming it up behind the mic, these singers' personalities are as big as their voices. 

Korean tenor Simon Kyung Lee would have you believe that not only does he sing better than Pavarotti or Bocelli, he is also better-looking. Sicilian-American Franco Martorana exclaims, "What kind of Italians are you?" as the audience tries to repeat a few refrains from "Funiculì, Funiculà."

And criss-crossing the lawn in high heels and a gown, French-Canadian soprano Solange Sior shifts effortlessly from diva to saucy cabaret hostess and back again. 

But make no mistake, these are world-class professionals with impressive resumes, unfazed by the wind, sun, P.A. system, nor the cackles of a nearby rooster. We especially enjoyed watching them enter and exit the stage by way of a swinging gate marked "Beware of Dog."

Yet the greatest performance of all may be the work of piano accompanist Dr. Chiayi Lee, who proved once again that she can play anything, on any keyboard, wearing sunglasses, without missing a beat.

If you can believe that a ticket to see Insane Clown Posse will cost you $60, you must also consider the possibility that opera is not just for snobs.

And if you have any capacity for joy in your heart, you must see a concert by the musicians of Soirée Lyrique and realize that the world's greatest music is being sung right now in your neighbor's back yard.

For more information, go to