PEORIA -- The opening concert of the Heartland Festival Orchestra's second season, on Aug. 27, shined with brilliance. The orchestra this season is larger, has some endowed chairs, and is playing beautifully. It's also a show in the best sense of that word.
Guest soprano Barbara Padilla sang wonderfully -- four well known opera arias and Dan Fogelberg's classic Longer, which was fabulous and done with the orchestra. Fogelberg's mother and family were in the audience.
Padilla is not only a fine operatic singer but she's lovely -- hot, really. She acted as she sang Susanna's aria from The Marriage of Figaro, Mimi's aria from La Boheme, Cio-Cio San's aria from Madam Butterfly and Tosca's aria from Tosca.
Placing these four wonderful arias on the same program was a terrific idea.
The orchestra also played Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A Major, op. 890, the Italian symphony, and the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, both exciting and well done.
The venue -- Five Points Center in nearby Washington, IL., is convenient, and likely attracts many people who won't cross the river to attend a concert in downtown Peoria. The auditorium was almost full.
There's always a video screen of the performance, giving audience members a close look at the musicians and conductor. And a punch-and-cookies reception afterward, with the musicians, for socializing.
It's a mixture of classical music, beautifully done, in an unusual informal ambiance. A lovely evening.
-- Elaine Hopkins