Each year, Mario Tabone (Tabone Vineyards – run by his son, Mario Jr. – and Tabone Orchards on the Old Mission Peninsula) and his buddy Silvio “Tony” Ciccone (Ciccone Vineyard in Leelanau County) sponsor an opera event at the City Opera House in Traverse City.
This year, their 7th annual “Traverse City Wine & Opera Festival” event was held on Sept. 14, 2019. Titled “Da Vinci 500th,” the evening honored the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death in France.
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My brother Ward had a couple of extra tickets, so my brother-in-law Steve Lewis and I tagged along with Ward and his wife Carol. There’s really nothing like hearing live opera in our beautifully restored City Opera House in Traverse City.
Performers from the Bellini Opera included Maestro Dino Valle, baritone; Eva Evola, soprano; Lisa Agazzi, mezzo soprano; and Jesús Hernandez, tenor, with Martin Mandelbaum at the piano.
Mia and Kate Oosterhouse (I believe their parents are Todd and Caroline Oosterhouse of OMP’s Bonobo Winery), along with a young friend, served as flowers girls.
And, of course, Mario Tabone took the opportunity to pour some Tabone Vineyards wine for the performers at the end of the program.
Here’s a review of the event written by opera lover William Allin Storrer (including a little commentary on the State Theatre’s decision to end their showings of the Metropolitan Opera)…
Now that we opera lovers are being stiffed by the not-for-profit State Theatre who need – according to what I’ve been told – to make more money than they can from ten Saturday afternoons of “Live in HD” operas from the Metropolitan Opera, we have but the Bellini Opera for our operatic satisfaction.
But what satisfaction that is. Three singers we’ve loved from six previous events, plus a new tenor who has a huge and beautiful voice. I don’t want to venture on how they do it, but soprano Eva Evola and mezzo Lisa Agazzi seem in better voice every time they come back to Traverse City
Then there is Dino Valle. He is a veteran of the opera stage but his voice doesn’t fail him. After an evening of opera favorites, the operatic fun cannot be considered complete until Dino sings “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville by Rossini. This is a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song before there was Gilbert or Sullivan. It is horrendously difficult, especially taken at the supersonic speed for which he is so famous. I think Dino must have learned it when he was a teenager.
Now let us consider a factor in how the floor of our local Opera House was filled for the show. Many were opera lovers, pure and simple. Many others were there to celebrate the wines and wineries of Tony Ciccone and Mario Tabone, inveterate and faithful sponsors of this event.
Finally, there were those there for both reasons. This is why Dino, a wonderful raconteur, took the stage to tell those who came for the wine and knew little to nothing about opera what they needed to know. When Dino asked the audience if he was overdoing his explanations, there was a chorus of “No” loud and clear.
Whether a wine lover or opera lover, there were a few standing ovations. Lisa Agazzi did both “Pres le Rampart de Seville” and the Habanera from Carmen, making one wish they could see and hear her in a staged performance of the opera. The duet from the rarely performed “Pearlfishers” by Bizet featured Dino and Jesus Hernandez. I feared that Hernandez would drown out Dino, but no, they blended superbly. He is the new guy on the block, a protégé of Placido Domingo, with a huge yet warm tenor with baritonal coloring. His “La Donna e’Mobile” from Rigoletto brought the house down at intermission.
But what of amazing Eva Evola. I am tempted to call her the glue that holds the company together. She was singing joyfully with everyone while she had only two solos! Six times she joined others, four duets and two quartets. But she made everyone shine. Well, isn’t that what a diva does?
What a wonderful evening. Sadly, it occurs only once a year.
That’s one critics opinion, What’s yours?
– William Allin Storrer