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National Chamber Ensemble’s ‘Night of Italian Opera’

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The National Chamber Ensemble, directed by the charming violinist Leo Sushansky, opened its eight season with a Night of Italian Opera this past Saturday, October 25, 2014, in the intimate Spectrum Theatre in Rosslyn, VA. The program included favorite Italian arias performed by Baritone Anton Belov and Soprano Yana Eminova, with violin solos performed by Leonid Sushansky, Sean Neidlinger on cello, and Frank Conlon on piano, and was sponsored by the Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute.

Yana Eminova and Anton Belov singing the seduction duet from 'Pagliacci.'

Yana Eminova and Anton Belov singing the seduction duet from ‘Pagliacci.’ Photo by Robert Jansen.

Sushansky entertained the audience with backstories about the history of the aria and composition that was about to be performed.

The overture for the evening was Pietro Nardini’s Concerto in E minor played by Leonid and Frank Conlon. The first movement, Allegro moderato, was joyful with round robust playing between the violin and piano. The second movement, Andante cantabile, rang tenderly with Sushansky’s plaintive mellow tones. The Allegro giocoso was an uplifting start to the evening. Witnessing these two fine musicians playing in precision and passion added to the joy.

Anton Belov strolled onto the stage and instantly displayed his masterful touch of poking fun at dramatic arias. He adds his own enlightening backstories. He cheerfully reminded the audience that The Marriage of Figaro could be compared to a modern day sitcom.

Each time I see and listen to Mr. Belov sing I fall in love with his voice and stage presence. His performance of “Non piu andrai” was glorious and beautiful

Belov received a standing ovation and bravos for his rendition of “Eri tu che macchiavi” from Un Ballo in Maschera. Music teachers often talk of singers developing their voices as instruments. Beyond that, as Mr. Belov sang it seemed to me that his personality was transformed. For example, singer Beyoncé says she becomes a totally different person when she performs. It seemed as if the length and breadth of Belov’s body became the instrument. Was this magnificent instrument being played by an Angel of Breath and Wind? The audience remained in momentary silence before the bravos began.

Yana Eminova is indeed a songbird (as the program introduced her). Her dramatic flair added to her sweet and elegant voice. With her expressive hands she becomes an actress, dancer, and songbird – all in one. Her acting abilities too center stage while singing “Deh Vieni” from The Marriage of Figaro, and during her emotional performance of Mimi’s aria from La Boheme.. I was in awe of Eminova’s vocal skill and clarity.

Left to right: Frank Conlon, piano;  Leonid Sushansky, violin; Yana Eminova, soprano; Anton Belov, baritone; and Sean Neidlinger, cello. Photo by Robert Jansen.

Left to right: Frank Conlon, piano; Leonid Sushansky, violin; Yana Eminova, soprano; Anton Belov, baritone; and Sean Neidlinger, cello. Photo by Robert Jansen.

Cellis Sean Neidlinger was featured during the La Serenata by G. Braga. The sounds he produces were beyond mellow. Intriguingly the piano accompaniment through several cadences enhanced and broadened the sound of the cello which seemed to create a large cello section. The song, sung by Anton Belov, was hauntingly beautiful and tells of a child informing his mother that there is an angel coming for him. The song became quite popular throughout Europe and migrated to many countries. Later Braga’s popular song was made into a Jewish folksong.

Mr Belov and Ms. Yanova displayed their acting and vocal chops in the two big duets on the program from Verdi’s  La Traviata and Leocovallo’s  I Pagliacci. Their voices matched each other perfectly in passion and beauty conveying the sense of tragic drama in each of these scenes.

Frank Conlon is a pianist with infallible technique and he is an incredibly sensitive accompanist. Not once in in the program was he too loud or too soft, too early or too late. He empowered each artist he accompanied, and added depth to each ensemble piece he played.

Each time I have attended a National Chamber Ensemble concert with friends we have left very contented–with the program, the opportunity to hear talented musicians in such an intimate environment, with a relaxed post-performance reception, where we had the opportunity to chat with the musicians and performers..

National Chamber Orchestra, under Sushansky’s leadership, offers programs with ‘themes,’ which are very affordable. His ability to attract amazingly accomplished musicians, work with a variety of different embassies in the area, and his devotion to showcase developing musicians, is exciting and admirable.

The final bow. Photo by Robert Jansen.

The final bow. Photo by Robert Jansen.

The National Chamber Ensemble’s A Night of Italian Opera was performed on Saturday, October 25, 2014 at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre at Artisphere  – 1611 North Kent Street, in Rosslyn,  VA. It’s two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro, with free garage parking in the Spectrum Garage.Untitled

For future National Chamber Ensemble events, including their Holiday Concert on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at| 4:30 PM, visit their website.

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