By Liz Wimberg
For the first Brown Bag Series event of the semester, four members of the Boheme Opera performed on Friday, Feb. 1 in the Mayo Concert Hall and showcased upcoming productions of “Don Pasquale,” the 1843 opera by Gaetano Donizetti, and Charles Gounod’s 1859 grand opera, “Faust.”
Coordinators of the event reminded the audience to appreciate the opportunity to feel and experience live music before turning the microphone to Joseph Pucciatti, co-founder and director of the Boheme Opera who introduced the performers and pieces.
Bass-baritone Edward Bogusz has performed with the group for over twenty years.
He previously studied in Italy, later performing and teaching across the United States.
Also singing bass-baritone was Frank Basile, a new member of the group who has a long history of operatic achievement, ranging from the University of Indiana to the White House.
Pucciatti’s wife, Sandra, also a co-founder of the organization, splendidly accompanied Bogusz and Basile on piano.
During the introductions, Pucciatti noted that bass voices assume the character of demon or buffoon — or uncle, as Basile joked — in most operas.
However, both “Faust” and “Don Pasquale” feature bassist lead roles.
As Pucciatti enlightened the audience with a bit of background, the vocalists sat casually at stage right, tapping their feet and drinking water in preparation. Soon the performers began to add anecdotes to their own introductions.
At times they all spoke at once, jovially recollecting their past performances and allowing glimpses into the personalities beneath the heavy voices.
When prompted about the differences between European and American arts, each member had something to say.
Bogusz noted that Europe is the birthplace of opera, and proximity to the source is elevating.
Basile recalled that townspeople readily volunteered to participate in small roles in opera and theater, much in the way an American would gladly act as an extra in Hollywood’s next hit.
Pucciatti has even visited popular jazz clubs in Europe, regardless of the genre’s American roots.
Finally, Sandra Pucciatti wrapped it up in stating that European governments support the arts much more substantially than ours does and “so does the population.”
Bogusz took center stage for an introductory Mozartian aria, his voice resonating in the auditorium from the low, soft piano phrases to striking, bellowing richness.
Pucciatti moved through the piece with grace and conviction. Even Basile, observing his colleagues offstage, appeared to be immersed in the melody.
Here, the audience was reminded of their previous instruction: to appreciate the live experience.
Most people listen to music through iPods and laptops, or (less willingly) in Eickhoff, so it’s easy to forget that behind the technology is a person, or people, who dedicate their lives to honing a single skill.
Live music denies passivity. Rather, we become active participants and dynamic contributors to the arts.
That said, mark your calendars. Boheme Opera returns to the College on Saturday, Feb. 9 and Sunday, Feb. 10 for full performances of “Don Pasquale” in Kendall Hall, and once again on Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21 for “Faust.”