Dominick, Collier to headline opera’s ‘Evening with Gershwin’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A return to perform in his native Southland has given John Dominick a fresh view of music at once familiar and yet so rich with mystery.

Performing as the lead male in &uot;An Evening with George and Ira Gershwin,&uot; opening at 8 p.m. Saturday at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center, Dominick will sing to an audience that will include his mother, visiting from nearby Marksville, La., and, he hopes, for two of his early voice teachers and mentors.

&uot;I had not had a lot of experience with Gershwin, but the songs are so familiar,&uot; Dominick said. &uot;After picking up the score and going over it, I found the emotion and the drama wonderful.&uot;

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Dominick will perform several popular songs from &uot;Porgy and Bess,&uot; the Gershwin opera that was not a box office success when it opened in 1935 but is today considered the most successful

opera written by an American composer.

With music by George and lyrics by his brother, Ira Gershwin, the opera follows the tragic love story of an impoverished, disabled African-American man and his wife, who ultimately abandons him.

&uot;The story is quite moving, and the emotions motivate me,&uot; Dominick said. &uot;Porgy was so in love with this woman. And the opera ends with the spiritual song, ‘Lord I’m on my Way,’ which tell us he’s off to look for her.&uot;

Singing opposite Dominick will be Michelle Collier, who describes herself as &uot;a Northern girl through and through, Š born and raised in Philadelphia.&uot; Collier has sung Gershwin for years, she said. &uot;It’s an opera I’ve studied. It’s dear to my heart, and I think it shows the Gershwin genius.&uot;

The evening will include more than &uot;Porgy and Bess&uot; songs; some of those, however, will be &uot;Summertime,&uot; &uot;My Man’s Gone Now,&uot; &uot;I Got Plenty of Nuttin’&uot; and &uot;Bess You is my Woman.&uot; Also on the program will be &uot;Swanee,&uot; George Gershwin’s first big hit, made famous by Al Jolson, who introduced the song on Broadway.

Both lead singers said the audience will find the Saturday program a delightful mix, with some familiar songs and others that may not be so well known.

Dominick became inspired to seek a career in opera after working in Metairie, La., with the Jefferson Performing Arts Society. &uot;That’s where I did my first opera. After that, a feeling came over me that said, ‘if you lose this, you may never get it back.’&uot; He moved to New York in 1997 and began pursuing the dream &045; finding the right teachers and agents and going to all the important auditions. &uot;Things are beginning to open up for me,&uot; he said. &uot;Now, I say it’s just a matter of time. I believe if you keep working, you will get your turn. If I wait in line and wait for my turn, I’ll get to the top.&uot;

Collier, who also lives in the New York area and pursues the same dream of success in the opera world, has known since she was a teenager that music would be her life. Spending a few years as a music therapist, she realized quickly that performing was her calling. &uot;I looked at my life and asked myself what the happiest times were. I knew performing is what made me happiest.&uot;

Auditions for young artists starting out in the competitive field of opera can be highly emotional, Collier said.

&uot;But I try to look at each audition as a mini performance. ŠI know singing is what’s in my heart and soul. And there are a lot of sacrifices that come with the territory,&uot; she said.