The Florida BoyChoirs and USF Opera joined forces at the Straz Center's Ferguson Hall for an evening of Christmas festivities.
The first half of the program featured a mix of holiday classics and carols that accentuated the joyous and profound sides of the Christmas season. The ensemble was at its best during pieces that created denser harmonies by utilizing a variety of the boys' vocal ranges. In several pieces the tessitura seemed shaky for many of the young boy sopranos, while in others, they completely overpowered their low-voiced counterparts. The classic carol, "Do you Hear What I Hear," created a balanced and resonant sound by further subdividing the choir into harmonically and rhythmically varying voices. "The Dream Isaiah Saw," by Glenn L. Rudolph, was another standout piece, as it created a contrasting interplay between the choir and the orchestra. Choirmaster Brain Collar led the choir in a delightful encore of "Silent Night," sung once in German and repeated a second time in English.
Menotti's one-act Christmas opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," began after the intermission under the musical direction of Brian Collar. The role of Amahl was sung by the Florida BoyChoirs' very own boy soprano, Riley Turner. Turner sang with impressive accuracy and brightness for such a young singer and seemed quite at home on the stage. Savanna Rigling, in the role of Amahl's stern, but caring mother, was equally convincing on the stage. Vocally, Rigling sang smoothly, but infused her phrases with both the exasperation and sadness of the impoverished mother; the aria, "All That Gold," however, fell slightly short. Rigling did not deliver the aria with adequate passion and seemed unsure of the pacing.
The three kings, Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, sung by Jonathan Willis, Jesse Martin, and Kyle Stevens respectively, carried some of the more exciting musical moments with their plush harmonies and hearty sound. In addition to the fullness of their unified sound, the Magi dominated with their comedic flair and highlighted the lyricism within Menotti's compact score.
The performers kept time with each other under Collar's steady direction and the dynamic between the singers and orchestra was well balanced, but for the violins, who could have used some additional support.
Though there were neither supertitles nor plot synopses in the programs, the singers did a commendable job of keeping audiences, even those unfamiliar with the story, in the thick of the action. The sonorous music and heartwarming ending to Amahl's plight left everyone in a cheerful mood and ready for the holidays.