Opera enthusiasts’ day in the park

Milford. Opera! Pike! Park!, in its third year, drew 562 people, and performers intrigued a few children.

| 31 Aug 2022 | 07:29

The Opera! Pike! Park! performance on August 29 , now in its third year, brought 562 people and much enthusiasm to Ann Street Park. The opera singers from the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia responded to the audience filled with opera buffs, newbies, and young and old people. What had started tentatively as one opera concert three years ago, under the direction and creative energy of Javier Morales, is now on its way to becoming a professional musical institution in Milford with enthusiastic volunteers and supporters.

Accolades like “ Amazing,” “wonderful,” “This is the best one yet,” were abundant.

Gail Shuttleworth said, “It is a treat to experience music at this level in the park. The open format welcomes dedicated opera fans and families, providing a fun and educational afternoon for everyone.” Edson Whitney said, “It’s a great addition to all the festivals that we have in this little town of Milford and the fact that it’s free for so many people is great as well. Thank you, Javier.”

Lisa Emery was there with a group of people wearing their “Unity in the Community” tee-shirts; a group that she and Sean Strub started to encourage people to engage with each other without bringing up politics or religion.

“ I loved it,” said Lisa, of the performers,

The singers were all hand-picked from the AVA and were accompanied by their conductor/ vocal coach, José Meléndez. There were two women, Emily Margevich (soprano) and Alice Chung (mezzo-soprano) and two men Zachary Rioux (tenor) and Benjamin Dickerson (baritone). All the singers had substantial repertories of solo parts in numerous operas.

“This is my first time in Milford and I’m amazed at the turnout here,” said Scott Guzielek, Vice President and General Manager of the AVA.

Guzielek explained that the AVA is a rigorous four-year free post-graduate training program dedicated solely to the training of opera singers. He said, “We give them training in diction, voice, and foreign languages. We teach stage combat for sopranos – we teach them how to die, and stage combat for baritones–we teach them how to kill!” He added that 11 AVA alumni are in 11 productions at the Metropolitan Opera this year.

Jamie Harris, performer and agent, was master of ceremonies and introduced the artists. This year, for the first time, they decided to include Broadway show tunes as well as more familiar arias. Not incidentally, “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” was the concert opener, as the singers walked through the audience and up to the stage. “Send in the Clowns,” sung by Alice Chung, brought a tear to some. There were also solos and duets of various arias by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Bizet.

A highlight of the event was when soprano Emily Margevich sang “My Favorite Things/ Do Re Mi,” from the Sound of Music, to a group of children on stage.

“That was truly magical,” said Matt Winkler, one of the sponsors

If one closed one’s eyes, the image of a smiling Julie Andrews in the role of Maria appeared overhead. Emily encouraged the children to sing and maybe grow up to be singers. She asked them to promise to keep singing. The concert ended with a rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night,” sung by Emily, with enthusiastic audience participation, and then a standing ovation.

A dinner was held at the Fauchere after the concert to thank sponsors, patrons, supporters and friends. Fauchere owner Bill Rosado contributed the three- course dinner of skirt steak, potatoes, salad, and a potpourri of desserts. Jim Pedranti contributed the free -flowing bottles of Opera Wine.

“It’s a wonderful way to end the summer,” said Bill Rosado. “It’s an honor to be part of this. My sincere thanks to Javier and Sean.”

Jose Melendez and the singers each performed a song—As someone said, “They sang for their supper.” Singing was in the air, and Sean and Megan’s cousin James Neiley, visiting from New York, got up and sang a song as well.

Many people contributed to this opera event, including the sponsors and volunteers. They spent days building the stage, setting up the chairs, and tending to the myriad of things it takes to put on a performance of this caliber. One could truly say, “It takes a village– and that village is Milford.

We teach stage combat for sopranos – we teach them how to die, and stage combat for baritones–we teach them how to kill! - Scott Guzielek, Vice President and General Manager of the AVA