Beth Donnelly and Doug Feller sing their hearts out
- Elena Boryczka
- The Times - Features
Take a trip through Tualatin one of these days and it's possible that you just may hear the faint melodies of opera music. While there is a chance the sound could just be someone playing a CD, it is more likely coming from the vocal cords of husband and wife duo Beth Donnelly and Doug Feller.
The two have been practicing opera music for most of their lives, each with a long resume of individual triumphs and achievements, but only recently did they decide to combine their gifts and create musical harmony.
'I was pursuing my opera career, and Doug was making the money,' Donnelly said. 'We always kind of wanted to do an album together, and the idea of doing an Italian album appealed to us.'
Some of the things Feller has done during the course of his career include appearing with the Portland Opera Previews, The Norman Leyden Singers and directing the Holy Cross Choir. His wife has appeared as Lucy in 'The Telephone,' Dama in 'MacBeth,' as Christine on The Phantom of the Opera Float for the Portland Rose Festival and done performances of Handel's 'Messiah.' Even with such impressive solo accomplishments, the two said it was really great to get to do something together.
'The nicest part about doing this music is being able to do it with Doug,' Donnelly said. 'That is the best part, to do it together.'
She said the way the CD came together is that they were in Italy looking for a venue for the choir that they co-direct when one of their photographers started shooting some film and taking photos of them. That's when they decided they were going to do an album together. 'That's Amore,' was released in October 2005, and Donnelly and Feller held an album release party at the sunken ballroom at the Art Museum in downtown Portland to celebrate.
Although the photography and video portions on the included DVD were all shot in Italy, the album was recorded in the Portland area. The pair were accompanied in the recording process by Sinfonia Concertante Orchestra, conducted by Stefan Minde, who directed the Portland Opera Association for a number of years.
There is also a DVD with footage of the duo in Rome and some behind-the-scenes of the album coming together. The documentary shows them exploring the Roman Coliseum, shopping and even having a coaching session with vocal coach Richard Bower in Portland.
The CD is described as something for those who are in love or are wishing to be in love, with obvious romantic qualities echoing throughout. It includes pieces by a number of famous composers, including Rossini's 'The Letter Duet' from 'The Barber of Seville' and Mozart's 'La ci darem' and 'Fin ch'han dal vino.' There is also a duet of the Sartori-composed 'Time To Say Goodbye,' which was made popular in the late '90s by Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.
Donnelly said this collection of songs and just the opportunity to work with her husband is something she has really enjoyed. It is also something that has stretched her boundaries and let her grow musically.
'What makes it unique is that we can do duets in all these different styles. It's very challenging as a musician to take on something new, to stretch your boundaries,' she said. 'It's such a challenge to do it well.'
During the course of recording the album, the two did a few concerts and performances in Italy. Donnelly said the Italian audiences were very different from Americans in that when they want an encore they shout 'Encore!' and then just wait for the performers to come back out and sing for them. The first time this happened, Donnelly and Feller said they hadn't prepared anything, so they just went out and sang some songs they had already done. The next time she said they were more prepared.
'Italian audiences were just very, very appreciative,' Donnelly said.
A high point from their trip was when the couple, along with their gospel ensemble The Glory Singers Ecumenical Concert Choir, sang for the pope. Donnelly said all the different choirs that were there were taking turns performing for the pope, but they kept being cut off before they could finish their songs. When The Glory Singers took the stage, the pope was clapping along with them and really getting into the music, and because of that, they were the only group that was able to sing their song all the way through.
Besides putting out a CD, Donnelly and Feller also do a number of concerts and different performances throughout the year. Their next event is called 'Mosaic,' and it will take place on Sunday at the Billiard Room of the Governor Hotel. Tickets for the event are $16 reserved and $20 at the door for adults, $14 reserved and $18 at the door for students and seniors. Jake's Catering will serve dessert.
Feller said the concert is titled 'Mosaic' because it will feature a wide variety of musical styles, including jazz, broadway, opera and standards.
'We're very excited about it because we feel like there's going to be a type of music for everyone who attends,' he said. 'I would think (those who attend) would be expecting to see some really good musicians . . . I think it will be an uplifting and a happy time.'
His wife added that their wide musical interests helped inspire the theme of the concert.
'For years we've been doing so many types of music . . . so we thought we should combine them all in one concert and call them Mosaic,' Donnelly said. 'We're really eager to have a good time and do our music and work with wonderful musicians.'
With such captive Italian audiences so obviously enjoying their music recently, it might seem Feller and Donnelly would worry about those in the Portland area not quite measuring up. Not so, they said.
'I think you find some (opera fans) everywhere, and you find people who maybe were not thinking about it,' Feller said.
'I think people will respond to heartfelt music, and no matter what type it is, people will respond to that.'