Spokane Symphony Orchestra

Review: Singers add drama to symphony stage Larry Lapidus Correspondent
April 1, 2012 - Updated: 4:30 a.m.

Four fine young singers joined Eckart Preu and the Spokane Symphony Orchestra on Friday for a delightful evening of arias, ensembles and orchestral works from the world of opera.

The program, called "Amore," was not intended to give connoisseurs a peek into the works of obscure and forgotten composers. It aimed, rather, to provide as much pleasure as possible to as wide a public as possible, and it succeeded very well, if not perfectly. 

Perhaps the most completely finished artist of the evening was Marcus DeLoach. In the aria "Non piu andrai," from W.A. Mozart's "Le Nozze de Figaro," DeLoach displayed a beautiful baritone voice easily and evenly produced throughout the whole of its range, superbly clear diction and a commanding dramatic presence. As soon as he walked onto the stage at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, he owned it.

Perhaps his dramatic projection of Don Giovanni's character in "La ci darem la mano" was a bit less sharply etched, as though he had not inhabited that part as long or as deeply as that of Figaro, but, in the "Toreador's Song" from Georges Bizet's "Carmen," his embodiment of the character's arrogance and egotism, as well as his command of French diction, were absolute.

Lyric soprano Mela Dailey displayed an exceptionally lovely voice in the ubiquitous "O mio babbino caro," from Giacomo Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi." The voice is pure and well-supported, reminiscent of Anna Moffo.

Dailey also showed great dramatic versatility, moving from the tender pathos of Mimi in selections from Puccini's "La Boheme," and the clowning sexiness she assumed in Musetta's "Waltz" ("Quando m'en vo") from that same opera, to Gilda's horror in witnessing the cynicism and lechery of her lover in Giuseppe Verdi's masterful "Quartet" from "Rigoletto."

It took a while before Jami Tyzik's lovely mezzo-soprano started to show to its best advantage. Her opening "Habanera" from "Carmen" was shaky and showed that there is more wrestling to be done with the French language. As the evening progressed, however, she appeared to grow stronger. Her duet with Dailey in the delectable "Sous le dome epais" could not have been more leisurely and luxuriant, and her dramatic and vocal command of the ambiguous character Maddalena made an exceptionally strong impression in the Verdi quartet.

The puzzle of the evening was the tenor, Brandon Wood, a handsome young man with a terrific voice that was undercut by his lack of focus and preparation.

Throughout the program, the symphony gave the artists sensitive support and played splendidly in overtures by Mozart, Verdi and Richard Wagner, as well as in the "Bohemian Dance" from Bizet's Carmen Suite No. 2.

The brass in Verdi's Overture to "La Forza del Destino" were glorious, and the flute duet of Bruce Bodden and Alaina Bercilla in "Carmen" were memorable for their perfect matching of phrasing and tone.


"Amore" was performed Friday at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

Requiem Conspirare

As the Dale Warland Singers wind down their long and successful run, the scene has been wide open for a high-quality small choir performing distinctly American material. With this release, the Texas-based group Conspirare take a big step toward filling that gap. To take one detail that's indicative of the care that has gone into the whole project, note the recording location -- the group traveled from Austin to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, an acoustically famed space in Troy, in upstate New York, on the second floor of a bank. The results are stunning: voices soar into the space but remain absolutely distinct.

The program selected by director Craig Hella Johnson is accessible and innovative. All the texts reflect the somber theme of death and loss, with the opening Requiem mass of Herbert Howells emerging as the product of the composer's experiences in the wake of his 9-year-old son's death from polio. Yet the variety of spiritual approaches reflected in the various compositions and their texts will bring a kind of hope to many listeners. Johnson creates a new version of the way college glee club concerts were (and are) organized, running from Renaissance motets at the beginning to upbeat, familiar college songs at the end. Each of Johnson's two discs begins with a modern requiem mass partly rooted in Renaissance procedures, moving through shorter works and concluding with an accessible piece in a semi-popular idiom -- the final work on disc 2 is a song by Texas country-folk writer Eliza Gilkyson, memorializing the victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia but equally applicable to those of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. (Johnson arranges the song for four voice parts and piano; the rest of the music is unaccompanied.) The conservative but highly distinctive masses by Howells and Ildebrando Pizzetti offer the choir opportunities to display its mastery of blend and its ability to subtly alter choral textures in the service of expression. Sample Pizzetti's Dies irae movement (disc 2, track 2) and listen to how Johnson lets the voices of the individual altos rough up the texture a bit as the fires of judgment burn. The shorter works, mostly by major contemporary American choral composers, are perfectly executed; Eric Whitacre's Three Songs of Faith, on poems by e.e. cummings, are a perfect counterpoint to the rather mystical suffering of Howells. The only curious thing about the recording is the double-disc sequence that times out at just over 80 minutes, including a work by Bradley Ellingboe (Be Music, Night) that is not described at all in the booklet. It's almost as though the work was added as an afterthought, pushing the total time beyond the confines of a single disc. It's a powerful setting, however, of a poem by Kenneth Patchen, and it stands up fully to the rest of the music. Those enamored of the American choral sound may have found their new standard-bearers. And anyone involved with ministering to the spiritual needs of the bereaved should also get to know this program of music. ~ James Manheim, Rovi

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Mela Dailey's Many Sided Career

by Gwen Gibson

Austin Womens Magazine

December 01, 2006

From the moment she started belting out solos in the Central Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Texas, at age five, it was clear that Mela Sarajane Dailey had star quality. But it was certainly not clear that this small town East Texas girl would make her mark as a lyric soprano in the grandiose world of opera. Dailey, like most other citizens of Jacksonville, had a thick east Texas accent. Until her second year of high school, when her family moved from Jacksonville to Dallas, she heard mostly gospel and country music. Her idol was not Renee Fleming or Beverly Sills or Maria Callas. It was Sandi Patty, the award-winning Christian singer known as "the voice of gospel music." Dailey was in her early 20s with considerable experience in other musical genres--including jazz, country, gospel and musical theater—before she became a dedicated student of classical music and the operatic literature.

The epiphany came while she was working on her master's in opera performance at the University of Texas in Austin. She completed her master's at UT in 2003. Today she regards opera as the Olympics of singing. "It's the most difficult," she said as we discussed her career over a two-hour lunch. "I think it makes all the other singing in the different genres better because you have this great technique to call upon." A lovely, slender, 27-year-old blue-eyed blonde, Dailey has kept her small town wholesomeness while developing the talent, self-confidence and discipline needed to excel in opera, an art form once exclusively European.

Critics have described the rising young star as a consistent performer with a silvery, mellifluous voice. Her appearance last year in a production of La Boheme by Houston's Opera in the Heights drew a rave review from the Houston Press. This said, in part: "As tempestuous good-time girl Musetta, Mela Dailey blasts on stage like a Hollywood diva and sings the hell out of her famous Waltz." Dailey will appear in Austin, now her home town, on December 12, as guest vocalist in a special holiday performance of Handel's Messiah by the Austin Symphony and Chorus Austin in Riverbend Center. Peter Bay, the Austin Symphony's music director and Dailey's husband of less than a year, will conduct the popular oratorio. Asked if her performance is affected when Bay is at the podium, Dailey said: "Only for the better.I trust him implicitly. Such a gentle presence. Confident. No ego. No difficulty. Therefore, it's just joy."

Dailey grew up in Jacksonville in a loving, supportive family, but she had to convince her mother, a talented musician and artist, that she was destined to be a singer. "Mother played piano, violin and French horn," Dailey said. "She wanted me to play an instrument in the school band. I wanted to be in the choir and in Jacksonville you couldn't do both." Dailey studied piano dutifully for 10 years, but it didn't take. "I could play for myself," she recalled. "Then one day mother found me practicing piano, playing the left hand and singing the right." The two negotiated a settlement in which Dailey would enter an All-Region Choir competition. If she won she would be allowed to stay in the school choir. Luckily, she did win. Her mother kept her bargain and Dailey stayed in the choir, working, in her words, "with some great choral directors who believed in my talent."

Her first big, life-changing break came when she accompanied her mother and her mother's art students on a trip to the Performing Arts High School in Dallas. Dailey auditioned for the prestigious school, was accepted and her entire family--mother, stepfather, and brother Jeffrey--moved to Dallas. "When I think back, I can't imagine a family doing that," Dailey said. "Everyone just finding jobs and going on about making it work." At the Dallas school, Dailey majored in vocal jazz, an art form entirely new to her. "I had never heard in jazz in my life," she said. "So I went to the library and listened to every jazz CD they had. For days I Iistened to Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. l was excited and overwhelmed. The whole idea of scatting was a foreign concept. It was a trial by fire but that's the way you learn."

She had other learning experiences, touring with her talented high school colleagues in both jazz and country groups. Dailey sang backups for country singer Alan Jackson, among others. "It was basically slave labor, she said with a laugh. "They would audition at this high school because they knew they would find good musicians who were willing to work ungodly hours for very little pay."

On graduating from the performing arts school at age 17, Dailey faced another milestone. She had won a scholarship to the highly touted musical theater program at New York University (NYU) where, she said, "You basically have an internship on Broadway." But even with her scholarship she knew she would go into debt in New York and she didn't want to place a financial burden on her family. Instead, she took advantage of the free college education she was entitled to as valedictorian of her high school class by enrolling in Texas State University (then Southwest Texas State) at San Marcos. She majored in vocal performance and, for the first time, began to study and appreciate opera. "I loved the discipline, the challenge, the intensity of the drama, the study of foreign languages." Dailey graduated, summa cum laude, from Texas State University but she felt ill-at-ease during her first days at UT in Austin "because I was studying with all these top students from Julliard and NYU and I the stuff I had done was so varied. I felt like I was going to be blown out of the water." The late UT voice professor Martha Deatherage helped Dailey regain her confidence. "She was the biggest blessing I could have come across," Dailey recalled. "When I first walked into her house she said, 'Well, honey, we've got our work cut out for us. But I believe in you.'" Dailey studied six times a week with Deatherage until the beloved professor died in May, 2003, three months before Dailey earned her master's in opera performance.

By now Dailey had become an exceptionally versatile singer able to bridge the gap between country and classic, gospel and grand opera or Bach and Bacharach. Peter Bay said this versatility makes it easy for Dailey to be dramatic when the role calls for drama. "She adapts to whatever she is singing naturally," he said Dailey made her professional debut in 2003 at Carnegie Hall with the Conspirare Company of Voices directed by Craig Hella Johnson. She has performed locally with the Austin Lyric Opera, Chorus Austin and the Austin Symphony and has appeared nationally with opera companies from Brooklyn to Louisville, Roanoke and San Antonio. Now she is branching out internationally. Early in January 2007 Dailey will appear in Klagenfurt, Austria, with the Carinthian Symphony Orchestra in a program called "Hollywood Concert." "I'll sing pop songs from old MGM musicals," she said. She plans to audition in Vienna for more European dates before flying home to Texas for a late January appearance with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra. Dailey performed in the Messiah with the Austin symphony in 2005. But Bay was in Lithuania and Kenny Sheppard, conductor of Chorus Austin, took the podium in Bay's absence. Dailey's appearance this year in the Handel masterpiece will mark only her third professional collaboration with Bay. The two first appeared together on stage during a March 2005 concert at Dailey's alma mater, Texas State. In the final act of a Common Experience program titled "Of Hate and Redemption," Dailey recited texts by Walt Whitman while members of the Austin Symphony, led by Bay, provided background music. "She hired me," Bay recalled. "I returned the favor by hiring her to appear with me at the Britt Festival in Medford, Oregon." He referred to an opera gala held in Medford last August where Bay conducted the orchestra while Dailey and three other soloists sang selections from "opera's greatest hits." Dailey and Bay were married in March 2005 at a small outdoor ceremony. It was a second marriage for both, "so we thought a small gathering of family and friends was appropriate," Dailey said. The new bride referred to her marriage as "the most important thing in my life." But she has ambitious professional goals, as well. One is to play the lead in Massenet's popular opera Manon. "This requires lots of stamina, lots of time on stage, lots of singing," she said, "That's why it's on my list." Bay is totally supportive of his wife's career. "She has already been successful at a young age," he said. "Now she's beginning to realize some of her goals, like singing with good opera companies and, hopefully, one day with the Met." Perhaps the road from the Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Texas, to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center is not so long, after all.


...For such an accomplished gathering of excellent singers, the individual selections were an uneven mix. Among the best of these was Mela Dailey’s “When William at Eve,” by William Shield....which showed off both the singer’s fine voice and playful exuberance.
— Robi Polgar, Austin Chronicle June 14, 2002
...Soprano Mela Dailey had both power and beauty for her solo in Richard Jackson’s “Rock My Soul.
— David Mead, Austin American Statesman October 14, 2004
Mela Dailey, soprano, simply enchanted, adding (her) golden touch to everything from Verdi’s “La Traviata” to “Tonight” from “West Side Story”...Ms. Dailey owned the second half of the program. She was simply dazzling in “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” from “La Boheme”...If you could take the golden tones out of sunshine, you have the loveliness of Dailey’s voice. She has such a warm, honeyed, rich tone. She brings the beauty out of the pieces she sings with just the right balance of got goosebumps on your arms by the end of the (Act I La Boheme duet.)
— Lana Sweeten-Shults, Times Record News,Wichita Falls, TX, February 15, 2009
Soprano Mela Dailey grabbed the spotlight as Musetta, the periodically flirtatious girlfriend of Marcello. Her singing was bright and vivacious...her taunting of Marcello in the face of an old beau was very funny.
— Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle April 01, 2005
Mela Dailey as tempestuous good-time girl Musetta, who blasts on stage like a Hollywood diva and sings the hell out of her famous “Waltz.
— Nancy Galeota-Wozny, D.L. Groover and Lee Williams, Houston Press April 07, 2005
From the moment Mela Dailey walks on stage you sense you are going to hear great music making. As she begins to sing, you become lost in the beauty of her voice. She seems to effortlessly sculpt every note to be in perfect alignment with her expression. Her tone can be clear and warm at the same time. She combines her remarkable musicianship with a naturalness of movement that has you believing the stage is where she lives. No matter how many times you have heard the music, it is as though you are experiencing it for the first time. No matter how trivial or superficial the plot, you believe it.
— Karl Miller, reviewer for American Record Guide, Symphony Magazine, Musical America,, January 20, 2007
Schumann then took the stage again, this time as accompanist to vocalist Mela Dailey for the world premiere of Dan Welcher’s “Four Personal Ads.” Commissioned by Peter Bay, Austin Symphony Orchestra maestro and Dailey’s husband, the songs were set to real-life personal ads, reworked as sonnets by poet Beth Gillis. With their titles, “Luscious Latina,” “The Queen,” “Rubenesque,” and “You Smell of Money,” as well as Welcher’s humorous popular references in the music, the pieces certainly entertained. Layered with Gillis’ fine work and Welcher’s inimitably rich and lyrical composition style, each song transcended the playful nature of its subject matter. In the finest moments, as when the Luscious Latina confides that, “at 26, I’ve lost too much,” for a short moment the mask is ripped off to show vulnerability at the heart of any search for love. Dailey, in a fiery red dress, enchanted. Her soaring soprano nailed the nuances of each character as she strode through the audience. Balancing the dual roles of musician and actor is a fine art, one that Dailey handled with great assurance.
— Austin American Statesmen July 15, 2008
She possesses a lovely, bright, lyric voice which she uses intelligently and in a most musical way. Mela has a communicative gift as well which allows her to touch her audience quite directly. Whether in staged opera, lieder, popular ballads or sacred music, Mela finds just the right style to bring life and beauty to the music at hand
— Robert White, tenor Juilliard Voice Faculty January 21, 2007
Soprano Dailey, tenor Cameron and bass/baritone Robinson gave magical performances - particularly the stunning Dailey with a voice that sounds like it’s coated in Christmastime silver and gold. Dailey dazzled with the famous “Laughing Song” from Johann Strauss Jr.’s comic opera “Die Fledermaus,” or “The Bat.” She turned in such a joyful performance. But her coup d’etat of the evening had to be “Vilja’s Song,” a lush, romantic aria from Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow.” She takes the audience with her on this quixotic journey that reaches the height of heights when she hits that elusive high note. She continued that journey with Cameron for “Lippen schweigen,” also from “The Merry Widow.” Dailey has such a wonderful timbre to her voice, such a great quality
— Lana Sweeten-Shults/Times Record News January 28, 2007