Opera Co. gala

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Opera Company's 25th bash The Opera Company of Boston kicked off it's 25th anniversary season with the first of four gala performances last Friday night.

The action was composed of 12 scenes performed by the likes of Shirley Verrett, Sarah Reese, James Rensink, James McCracken, and Donald McIntyre.

Somehow a review in the critical sense of this event seems inappropriate. This is first and foremost a celebration, a time for applause, appreciation, bouquets, and good fun.

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Friday's performance brought together past memories (through slides and recordings) and some promises for the future.

A recording of Donald Graham singing ''Vecchia zimarra'' from ''La Boheme'' was a poignant reminder of the recent passing of this great artist. A charming film of Graham chasing Beverly Sills in ''The Barber of Seville'' made the loss the heavier.

On a brighter side, Ruth Welting's utterly delightful rendition of the Olympia scene from ''The Tales of Hoffmann'' was full of wonderful things to come. Her interpretation of the little windup doll, complete with painted porcelain face and crystal voice, was as appealing as a Cabbage Patch Kid. She will sing the role here in December.

Shirley Verrett had to battle knocking radiator pipes through ''O Patria Mia'' from ''Aida,'' but came out the clear winner. James McCracken is no stranger to the Opera Company of Boston, or to ''Othello,'' and proved again how convincing he is in this tragic role.

Throughout the evening, the weaver of this splendid fabric of 25 years stayed modestly in the background, appearing only once or twice to conduct. Sarah Caldwell, artistic director of the Opera Company, is the show. Thank you, Miss Caldwell, for the past 25 years, and for the next.

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