An unconventional evening of glamour and “OperaRocks” was held at the Monastero’s Ristorante & Banquets. The gala benefit opera concert on April 7, was presented by Verismo Opera Theater (VOT), and produced by Miss Heart of Illinois Marisa Buchheit.
From the moment that you enter this elegantly decorated venue exuding with Sicilian heritage you know that you are in for a good time. Guests were equally pleased with buffet-style Italian dinner. While the attendees were consumed by the buffet offerings, Bradley Schuller, VOT’s founder, and Marisa played on the guitar and sang some classic rock hits in the background. I noticed people rushing to finish their dinner so that they could fully enjoy the entertainment.
The benefit gala marked the revival of VOT. VOT was founded in 2010, quickly gaining popularity with several sold-out shows, had to suspend its operations the following year due to economy and poor ticket sales. The evening featured opera’s greatest hits by Puccini, whose work “O mio Babbino caro” from “Gianni Schicchi,” “Musetta’s Waltz” and the Act IV duet from “La Boheme.” “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot,” and “Un Bel Di” from “Madama Butterfly.” Other opera favorities included «La ci darem» by Don Giovanni, «Deh vieni, non tardar» from Le Nozze di Figaro, and «What a movie» from Trouble in Tahiti.
While I’m typically accustomed to seeing opera at a concert hall this venue provided more intimate interaction between the audience and the performers. It was wonderful to see that some of the performers ventured out into the audience. Hence, creating more informal atmosphere and drawing its audience into the performance itself.
Tenor Bradley Schuller, and internationally acclaimed baritone David Adam More, to kick off the main part of the evening presented a famous duet from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” including Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Dov Giovanni.” Guests likewise heard electrifying performances by baritone Aaron Wardell, mezzo soprano Katherine Dalin, soprano Sarah McIntyre, mezzo soprano Erin Elizabeth Smith and soprano Marisa Bechheit.
Rachel Frank Designs contributed to the overall “OperaRocks” theme by designing edgy rock-and-roll threads and accessories for the artists, while hair and make-up was by Glam Ooh La La.
It was of no coincidence that the gala was creatively dubbed “OperaRocks.” As some avid opera lovers would tell you that Opera was the original Rock music. The guests experienced just that delivered by an incredibly talented VOT cast and guests artists. VOT produces just as their mission states, “relevant, truthful, and emotionally direct performance.” I encourage you to check out this organization and attend their future performances of La Traviata by Verdi in August and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in November with a signature VOT’s interpretation.
Kontinent Media Group
Photos by Gaby Abboud