Bravo! Opera entertains Sheppard

From left to right, Fort Worth Opera vocalists tenor Benjamin Bunsold, soprano Tawny Seward, baritone Brandon Poor and mezzo-soprano Laura Mercado perform at the officers club April 7. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tonnette Thompson).

From left to right, Fort Worth Opera vocalists tenor Benjamin Bunsold, soprano Tawny Seward, baritone Brandon Poor and mezzo-soprano Laura Mercado perform at the officers club April 7. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tonnette Thompson).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- "We don't want to miss anything," whispered a man to his son as vocalists from the Fort Worth Opera entertained guests at Sheppard's officers club with their rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel." 

So went the general mood the evening of April 7 at the officers club. More than 50 attendees bustled around the club with drinks, shrimp cocktails and conversation before and after the show or during intermission. 

But once the Fort Worth Opera members began their performance of 'Bring Him Home,' a medley of opera songs, everyone fell quiet and still.
 
The group is with Great American Voices, a 40-base tour presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and funded by Boeing Co. They performed at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, April 4 and Lackland AFB, Texas the following day. They returned to Fort Polk, La. after their night at Sheppard. 

"We're excited to be a part of this initiative," Tony Kostecki, director of the Fort Worth Opera studio, said. "It's great to reach out to other communities, learn more about the military. We hope to continue to build a relationship in the future." 

The singers - Tawny Seward, Laura Mercado, Benjamin Bunsold and Brandon Poor - spent nearly two hours performing songs from operas such as "La Traviata," "Carmen," "La Boheme" and "West Side Story." They also sang an impromptu "Happy Birthday" to a blushing Kathy Standifer, wife of Lt. Col. Douglas Standifer of the 97th Flight Training Squadron. 

"I was completely surprised, embarrassed and flattered. I didn't expect it," Mrs. Standifer said, still smiling at her husband, who arranged the serenade. "It was very romantic, but he's a dead dog for this!" 

The evening performance was not the first of the day for the singers. Just that morning they'd also entertained more than 300 students at John Tower Elementary School, singing songs from 'Jack and the Beanstalk.' 

"It's hard to tell who had more fun, the students or the teachers. They were so pleased they came," said Raymond Talbott, director of the community center, working in tandem with the officers club for the event. "The principal kept thanking us."
Some of the singers themselves enjoyed their latest locale. 

"This is a wonderful base, it's amazing," said Ms. Seward, a soprano for the troupe. "We checked out the gyms and the library, and went off-base to the mall and restaurants. We like it here, it's very nice." 

"Every tour we're surprised by the bases we visit," said Ms. Mercado, a mezzo-soprano for the group. "Here it was the people; they're so warm and friendly. They're also very receptive to opera and culture, because they don't see very much of it here."