To conclude the Merola program - this summer camp for talented young opera singers - they borrowed the SF Opera orchestra, the opera house with the Moby-Dick set on the stage, and they put together a fireworks display to show us what they hard learned. Plenty, as it turns out.

Among twenty arias, gathered from a hodgepodge of old and less old, famous and less famous operas, it's difficult to pick favorites and not forget any one. But we were pinned in our seat by Casey Candebat in an excerpt of Massenet's Werther. The aria builds in two part, a dialogue between Charlotte (Sarah Mesko) and Werther, who are re-united after a voluntary separation. Then Werther plunges into his big meaty piece, Pourquoi me reveiller. Candebat brought so much lyricism and emotion to the initial chit-chat, with a smooth, honeyed tenor and perfect French diction, that we were rapt by the time he delivered the heart of the aria, tingling with goosebumps and blown away. He definitely had vocal heft in his comic role as the Podesta in the Merola production of La Finta Giardiniera. In Werther, he added a stirring emotional presence.