- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

The Choral Arts Society of Washington has an ace up its sleeve as it wraps its 2001-02 subscription season tomorrow. The society's "A Night at the Opera III" features a series of arias from soprano Alessandra Marc, the Chantilly, Va., resident whose voice causes critics to entangle themselves in verbose praise.

"She rises to the challenge of the most dramatic, the most expressive [pieces], and she gives of herself wholly she's speaking directly from her heart and soul. It comes through in her performances," says Joseph Holt, the society's associate conductor.

"It's wonderful having an artist of this magnitude in our back yard," Mr. Holt says.

"A Night at the Opera III," to be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, features plenty of the celebrated soprano.

Mr. Holt says this year's program, the third in a series of opera-themed events, forced the society to look for fresh material.

"We hadn't performed any Wagner," he says, looking back at past opera-themed finales in 1994 and 1997.

The concert's first half corrects that with a vengeance.

Conducted by Heinz Fricke, the Washington Opera's general music director, the show will sound at times like the "top 10 hits of Wagner," Mr. Holt says.

Miss Marc's voice, and that of guest baritone Guido Paevatalu, are well suited to the composer's full-bodied arrangements.

The Wagner selections "run the gamut from the exultant to the prayerful to the hopeful to the sadness," he says.

The program includes Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" and "La Forza del Destino," Charles Gounod's "Faust" and Richard Wagner's "Tristan," "Tannhauser" and "Die Meistersinger."

The second half broadens the selections, showcasing works by Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. all capped by what he promises will be a "surprise" encore.

A wicked highlight he can share is a "Witches' Chorus" featuring an all female cast.

"They have to sound like witches; that's what Verdi wanted," he explains of the piece.

Another piece, a duet by Puccini, is typically sung between a father figure and daughter or two lovers. Miss Marc and Mr. Paevatalu, he says, bring a brother-sister dynamic to an "extended and beautiful" duet.

For Miss Marc, the show represents the latest concert in a fruitful relationship between her and the Choral Arts Society.

"It was with this organization that I made my official debut at the Kennedy Center as a soloist with 'Illuminations' under the baton of Norman Scribner," Miss Marc says. "It's been a very fruitful, mutually enjoyed relationship."

That bond allowed her to gently sculpt the society's final subscription show.

"The Choral Arts Society had in mind certain formulas, programming important choral pieces. That has to be their emphasis," she says. "But the pieces I'll be singing, the arias, are really the jewels in the crown of the [soprano] repertoire for me."

The show also meshed with her often rigorous touring schedule.

"It's nice to have a chance to give the audiences here the chance to hear the things nearest to my artistic soul," she says.

"[The society has] given me a lot of opportunity to share with friends and fans who rarely have an opportunity to see the changes in my singing," she says. "It's wonderful to be appreciated on one's home turf."

Although she sings all over the world, she says living in Northern Virginia for the past 15 years makes sense.

"It's very convenient to get to Europe," she says, via Washington Dulles International Airport. She also studied music at the University of Maryland.

"This became my fertile kind of ground for becoming the singer I wanted to be," she says.

While last year featured plenty of traveling, including her debut at New National Theatre Tokyo, she dialed down her schedule during the next few months to allow her time with her husband and young daughter, Olivia.

Her travel schedule will include a trip to Madrid to prepare for a Decca recording.

She returns to the local stage Oct. 19 for a performance with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra at George Mason University.

WHAT: The Choral Arts Society of Washington's "A Night at the Opera III"

WHEN: 3 p.m. tomorrow (pre-discussion with Lou Santacroce, host of National Public Radio's "At the Opera," starts at 1:45 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Atrium)

WHERE: The Kennedy Center Concert Hall, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW

TICKETS: $15 to $45

PHONE: 202/244-3669 or 202/467-4600

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