By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic
The South Shore Opera Company of Chicago celebrated its 4th anniversary at a gala concert at the South Shore Cultural Center the last Saturday of October. While still a young group, they have been deft at audience development and a a good-sized crowd in the Paul Robeson theater.
The program dipped into three musical accounts of the Romeo and Juliette story: Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” and Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”
The SSOC, which has relied primarily on piano arrangements in the past, supported their singers with an 11-member ensemble this time around, conducted with caffeinated fervor by Francesco Milioto. While this meant that the singers were relegated to the skirts of the stage, the audience appeared nonetheless well-pleased with the results.
Particularly noteworthy, in this packed box of chocolates, was Bernard Holcolm, currently a member of Lyric Opera’s Ryan Center. He was caressingly beautiful in the Gounod excerpt “L’amour! Ah léve toi, soleil!” and has a natural and effective approach to musical theater, easily and convincingly rendering Tony’s side of the love duet “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story.”
Kimberly Jones, a soprano who has unfailingly offered good work with the SSOC, this time created a meltingly pretty picture of the longing of young love in Bellini’s “Eccomi in lieta vesta, oh! Quante volte.”
The program closed with Gounod’s tomb scene, finding Joelle Lamarre and Cornelius Johnson in full power as the doomed couple finds solace in the love which can only find its power in death.
The upcoming SSOC season will honor Black composers and performers and they tantalizingly advertise an “opera” for next October. Mounting a complete opera is the natural next step for this small group with lots of community support as well as the kind of determination to make big things happen on a small budget.