According to my records, the Pocket Opera’s San Francisco performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 527 Don Giovanni on the afternoon of Sunday, March 8, was one of the last events to take place prior to the full-scale cancellation of performing arts events throughout the Bay Area. Fortunately, Pocket Opera was a relatively early adopter of streaming video technology as a means of both maintaining an audience base and keeping their artists works. The result was the 3-Song Mini Concert Series, launched on YouTube on April 13 with a performance by baritone Anders Frölich, who had sung the title role in the Don Giovanni performance.
Since that time videos have been uploaded to YouTube on roughly a monthly basis. Following the Pocket Opera approach to opera production, all selections are sung in English; and subtitles are provided. All performances are collected on the Pocket Opera home page, easily found without too much scrolling. The response has been positive, and the May upload of soprano Chelsea Hollow received second place in the recent voting for Best Vocal Recital Performance and Best Streamed Performance Created During the Pandemic in the 2019–2020 Audience Choice Awards presented by San Francisco Classical Voice.
Rabihah Davis Dunn and Whitney Steele with fingers of pianist Frank Johnson (screen shot from the YouTube video of the recital being discussed)
The most recent of these offerings is planned for availability tomorrow. The recitalist is mezzo Whitney Steele. One of her selections is a duo with soprano Rabihah Davis Dunn, who had sung the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and had uploaded her own mini concert this past July. The two of them gave a socially-distanced performance of “Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour” (beautiful night, oh night of love), the barcarolle that opens the third (Giulietta) act of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann. Steele began her program with “Voi che sapete che cosa è amor” (you who know what love is), the song that Cherubino presents to the Countess Rosina Almaviva during the second act of Mozart’s K. 492 The Marriage of Figaro. The program then concluded with “Quando me’n vo’” (when I go along), best known as “Musetta’s waltz” from the second act of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème.
Accompanied at the piano by Frank Johnson, Steele gave a confident performance of all three selections. Her blending with Dunn could not have been more satisfying. Indeed, the only sign of weakness came from the upper-register soprano demands that Puccini composed for Musetta. While Steele’s pitch in that register was solid, there was more than a suggestion that she was punching her way to achieving it. Cherubino’s register was much more in her comfort zone, allowing her to transcend much of the awkwardness of the English-language account of the text.