The objection could be made that the duo recital of tenor Paul Groves and baritone Dwayne Croft on Saturday at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, was nothing but a hit parade, a Reader's Digest compendium of the classic good bits. But since these young veterans kept coming out and belting them over the fence, it just didn't matter. This was a flat-out impressive vocal display.
Equally impressive was Steven Blier's multifaceted accompaniment. In this program of arias and duets from opera and operetta, he turned the piano into a little orchestra of colors and articulations.
Groves and Croft established a pattern early. Croft would offer a vengeful, heroic or proud aria sung with booming fervor and ringing, rounded tone. Groves would counter with sweeter and more sensitive tunes. Then the two would join in emotionally stirring friendship duets.
Thus the first half alternated Donizetti's "Una furtiva lagrima" with Mozart's "Vedro mentr'io sospiro," then arias from Gounod's "Faust" and Massenet's "Manon" before climaxing with the duet from Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers."
The second half explored American operetta. In "Some Enchanted Evening," "Maria," and "The Impossible Dream," Croft luxuriated in his power and warmth. In "Be My Love" (by Brodszky) and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" (Romberg), Groves revealed a dryer sonority, but greater attention to meaning and dynamics. Duets from "The Student Prince," "La boheme," "Don Carlos" and a reprise of "The Pearl Fishers" sent everyone home happy.