Review: “The Future Is Now: The 2018 Adler Fellows Concert” presented by San Francisco Opera (*****)

by Jesse Seguin

“The Future Is Now: The 2018 Adler Fellows Concert” with (seated) Ashley Dixon, Natalie Image, Sarah Cambidge; (standing) John Elam, Aria Umezawa, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Christian Pursell, Kyle van Schoonhoven, Andrew Manea, Amitai Pati and César Cañón. Photo Credit: Kristen Loken/San Francisco Opera Company.

On Sunday Decmeber 8th, Herbst Theatre hosted SF Opera’s annual Adler Fellows Concert, “The Future Is Now.” This celebrated event is the final performance of the Adler Fellowship program, a renowned multi-year residence program in partnership with the San Frncisco Opera. The Adler Fellowship program cultivates the youngest and brightest talent in the opera world. Fellows participate in private coaching, seminars, performance opportunities and supporting roles in SF Opera productions.

At this year’s culminating concert, a devoted and enthusiastic audience warmly welcomed the San Francisco Opera Orchestra under the baton of Christopher Franklin, who opened with the overture from Verdi’s “Un Giorno di Regno.” This gave the orchestra opportunity to show off its bold and expressive sound while setting the tone of excitement and energy that would last throughout the evening. The various scenes and arias that followed were presented in a way that both complimented one another and made for a cohesive, flowing performance. The Fellows made their entrances and exits, acted and sang with genuine emotion that brought an intensity not seen in most concert opera performances.

Firt to appear was soprano Natalie Image with an impressive performance of Donizetti’s famous “Regnava nel Silenzio” from”Lucia di Lammermoor.” Her bright coloratura stood up to this aria’s technical demands and challenges in a rendition that showed promising command and graceful expression. Singing the role of Alisa was mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon. Dixon sang with great control and impressive, mature sound. After that, she reappeared several more times throughout the evening, most notably with a refreshing, beautiful solo as Marguerite, who longingly awaits her lover’s return in Berlioz’s, “La Damnation de Faust.”

Another standout performance was the virtuosic work of counter-tenor Aryen Nussbaum Cohen, including a commanding and dramatic interpretation of the Baroque style in Handel’s “Admato,” and a seemingly effortless and energetic Bel Canto performance from Rossini’s “Tancredi.” His unique sound ought to impress both opera impressarios and amateurs alike.

The concert closed with the final love duet from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” Soprano Sarah Cambidge’s performance was filled with perfect tone and clarity of diction. Her partner, tenor Kyle von Scheonhoven, sang in a bright yet strongly supported voice that surely indicated many more memorable performances to come.

As the famous “Tristan chord” achieved its resolution in the final love duet, so too ended this enchanting performance. After an evening of such superior musical excellence and exceptional talent, it was easy to see why the audience seemed so familiar and devoted. It surely would have satisfied any person with the slightest appreciation for opera, as well as the more sophtisticated on the lookout for its newest stars.

The Adler Fellows left just enough wanting to fill the audience with anticipation for next year’s concerts.

Rating: ***** (For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

“The Future Is Now: 2018 Adler Fellows Concert.” Conductor: Christopher Franklin. Director: Aria Umezawa. Accompanist (piano and harpsichord): César Cañón.


Sarah Cambidge, Ashley Dixon, Natalie Image, Andrew Manea, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Amitai Pati, Christian Purcsell, Kyle Van Schoonhoven.

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