The song “We Want to Sing in Opera” opens “OPERA etc., a Concert with Comedy and Class,” appearing for three shows only this weekend at the Cambria Center for the Arts. Sung by all four cast members, the opening number expresses their own dreams of using their voices, with lyrics that say “if we could have a choice … to sing something divine.”
The singers are Mary Schwalbe, Ruth Fleming, Wayne Attoe and Al Curtice. Fleming, who directed the Cambria Chorale for seven years, organized the concert, which she says is an “eclectic hodge podge featuring the classical voice.”
She enlisted vocalists from the area who have had both professional and local careers to sing a program of operatic pieces, art songs, and numbers from light opera and musicals. Pianist Karen Johnson, accompanist for the Cambria Chorale, accompanies the singers.
During a recent rehearsal around Johnson’s grand piano, the singers performed their pieces and talked about their songs. Schwalbe came in on crutches, having taken the old stage term “break a leg” too literally. But her injury had no effect on her soaring soprano as she sang beautiful operatic excerpts. The program includes solos, duets and quartets. Schwalbe and Fleming sing some lovely duets, and perform duets with the men. In a tribute to Mozart, Curtice, as Don Giovanni, seduces Schwalbe, and she and Attoe banter charmingly in “Papagena-Papageno.”
The singers introduce some of their pieces, often with humorous anecdotes. The first half of the show is operatic with most of the songs sung in English. The ones that aren’t are translated in the program. The second act is lighter, with familiar songs like “Wunderbar” and “Try to Remember,” and songs from Gilbert and Sullivan shows. The program is laced with humor, concluding with the whole cast singing a rousing spoof of “Rigoletto.”
Fleming, who has directed and performed in this area for years, said that performances are rarely done here using these classical types of voices. In addition to concerts and recitals, she has sung professionally with the Guild Opera of Los Angeles, Euterpe Opera and the New York City Opera during their Los Angeles runs.
Schwalbe sang with the Long Beach Opera and Golden West Opera among others. She is music director of the Unitarian Universalist community of Cambria. She and Fleming have been active with area school programs.
Attoe, who has been seen in many Central Coast shows, is a founder of SinNombrE, a vocal quintet which performs in this area and Southern California.
Curtice has sung in area productions and plays, playing Tito Morelli in SLO Little Theatre’s “Lend Me a Tenor.”