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October 21, 2009 > Phantoms of Fremont Opera

Phantoms of Fremont Opera

A Haunting Pre-Halloween Performance

By Eman Isadiar

Ghostly figures and ghastly visions will converge at Mission Coffee Roasting Company in Fremont on Sunday, October 25 in a live performance of scenes from the world's darkest operas. Titled "Spooktacular," the program features a frightfully gifted cast of Fremont Opera singers - namely soprano Angela Cadelago, mezzo-soprano Sonia Gariaeff and baritone Roberto Perlas Gomez - with the chilling narration of artistic director David Sloss. Leading Bay Area pianist Helene Wickett will provide the macabre accompaniment.

Since the early days of opera, composers have set to music not only delightful fables of love, but also some of the most hair-raising tales of murder, ghosts and demons. Quite often, the elements of romance and horror are intertwined and inseparable in the story.

A famous example is the opera "Faust," by Charles Gounod, whose central character pledges eternal servitude to the devil in exchange for youth so he can win the heart of a much younger woman, but instead brings utter destruction, disgrace and damnation to everyone involved.

Following the success of "Faust," the same legend is set to music in the opera "Mefistofele" by Italian composer Arrigo Boito, who favors the prince of darkness for his title character.

In both versions, the devil sings in the lowermost range of the male voice, which also holds true for the majority of opera villains and monsters. Conversely, the evil character in Mozart's "Magic Flute" happens to be a woman-Queen of the Night-who sings in an impossibly high extreme of the female vocal range in one of the most famous arias of all time.

In the realm of Broadway productions, among the creepiest of musical tales is Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd," which depicts a London barber who has a habit of shaving his customers a little too closely, and a neighborhood meat pie shop whose pies are a little too tasty.

Incidentally, excerpts from all of the above will be performed at Fremont Opera's "Spooktacular," which David Sloss exclaims, "is not for the faint of heart!"

The presenting artists of "Spooktacular" are all active performers and among the Bay Area's finest. Soprano Angela Cadelago, a native of California's Napa Valley, has been a Metropolitan Opera Regional Audition finalist, and was hailed by Opera News Online as "charming as all get-out." She has appeared in recital at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, and with numerous orchestras in the United States.

Mezzo-soprano Sonia Gariaeff has appeared with opera companies throughout the United States, and has been heard in concert with the San Francisco Symphony and with the Sonos Chamber Orchestra in New York. She has been a resident artist with the San Francisco Opera Center, and a finalist in some of the nation's most prestigious voice competitions.

Baritone Roberto Perlas Gomez has performed extensively with Opera San Jose. He was seen at Los Angeles Opera in "Fedora" with Placido Domingo, and in the title role of "Don Giovanni" at Pasadena Lyric Opera. He has been an artist-in-residence with San Diego Opera, and has sung with numerous opera companies in the United States. He has also performed internationally with Shanghai Opera and Mexico's Acorde Opera.

Pianist Helene Wickett has appeared as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony and the Dallas Symphony, among many others. She has played solo recitals in virtually every major western musical capital. She made her New York dŽbut in 1980 as winner of the Pro Musicis Foundation Award.

Speaker David Sloss is artistic director of Fremont Opera, and also celebrates his 30th season as music director and conductor of Fremont Symphony. He was general director of West Bay Opera in Palo Alto, where he conducted over twenty productions during his long association with the company. He was professor of music at Sonoma State University, and has also worked as a producer and director for WGBH-TV in Boston, where he received an Emmy nomination for the National Educational Television series "A Roomful of Music."

As the only opera company in the area, Fremont Opera was created in 2007 to offer Fremont and neighboring communities the best in regional and national young singers, and an enjoyable and compelling experience with this great art form. Fremont Opera has already performed two complete operas - Puccini's "La Boheme" and Rossini's "Barber of Seville" - with plans to produce Verdi's "La traviata" next summer.

In addition to performing operas in their entirety, Fremont Opera frequently performs recital-length programs, such as "Spooktacular", which bring a taste of opera in a more casual setting to local fans. The last program of this kind was titled "Sex in Opera," and was presented to a sold-out crowd last May at Mission Coffee Roasting Company.

Fremont Opera's "Spooktacular"
Sunday, October 25
4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Mission Coffee Roasting Company
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 474-1004,

Admission: $25 per person (does not include food or beverage)
Halloween attire encouraged

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