Jun 23, 1999 at 4:00 am



Union Avenue Opera Theatre's Opera Chorus Gala has become an annual event, and Saturday evening at Union Avenue Christian Church, the company presented its best ever.

A superbly prepared chorus sang opera-chorus numbers from Purcell, Mozart, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, and Gilbert and Sullivan. Opera arias and duettos were performed by the likes of soprano Mary Wilson, Margaret Schelin Campbell (what gorgeous posture! Soloists, take note — that's the way to stand before an audience) and Victoria Carmichael; mezzos Deborah Good Stinson and the seriously sexy Heather McDuffee; tenor Tracy Baker; and baritones Mark Kent and Chester Pidduck, all in top form.

The evening's highlights (for me) were the choruses "Zeffiretti lusinghieri" from Idomeneo, a stirring "Vedi! le fosche notturne spoglie" (a.k.a. the Anvil Chorus) from Il Trovatore, and an unbelievably rich "No More Fly My Feet o'er Wood and World," from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, an impressive folksonglike solo and response between tenor Baker and the chorus.

Wilson knocked me out with her "No Word from Tom" from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress; Stinson's "Stride la vampa," from Il Trovatore, was shivery; and McDuffee's "What a Movie!", from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, could have set Union Avenue Christian Church on fire.

Marcia Hansen and Alla Voskoboynikova provided excellent accompaniment, and Scott Schoonover, UAOT's extremely talented founder and music director, conducted. Hey, you guys! Bravissimo!