Philadelphia Opera at the Academy of Music, Oct. 2-11; Free HD broadcast on the Mall, Oct. 16, Independence Historic National Park
Lisette Oropesa’s first time out as Violetta Valery was triumphal Friday night. To show her glee in a role that clearly suits her, after “Sempre Libera”’s fireworks, the soprano flung the contents of her champagne glass across the boards. And why not? Oropesa has it all. Vocal range and beauty, nuance and technique. She’s the slimmest singing actress to play the tubercular “fallen woman” (i.e. sex worker) on this stage in awhile: eliminating one of the challenges that suspend operatic belief.
Alek Shraker, as Alfredo, is also new to the role and this company. The tenor has a slight cover to the voice; opening night, Shraker’s presence was more subtle than heroic but his singing acting developed ardor and projection as the drama progressed. A powerful match for this Violetta is Stephen Powell’s Germont. Always harder to sing slow sustained lines, which Powell well achieved in “Di Provenza”; even finer his impassioned duets with the woman whose love he has come to defeat. On her own, Violetta’s lyric whispers, so perfectly tuned, created a marvelous stillness in the house, before igniting second-act applause.
Pitch: there’s a concept we don’t always find ideal opening night: much as we crave it. Pitch and timbre. What joy to listen to Oropesa through the evening; not only secure of pitch but how beautifully she matched the woodwinds, flutes in particular, how easy it was to admire again Verdi’s knitting of vocal and instrumental lines. How easeful, too, Corrado Rovaris’ shaping of ensembles: onstage and in the pit. Continue reading New Violetta Wears the Pants in Philly “Traviata”→
Queen of Spades (Pique Dame) Opera by Peter I. Tchaikovsky) Russian Opera Workshop, Ghenady Meirson, Music Director & Pianist, Academy of Vocal Arts, Helen Corning Warden Theater, 1925 Spruce St., Philadelphia, Performed July 24, 25, 26, 2012. Review of 7/25 for WRTI, 90.1 fm
The Russian Workshop that summers at Academy of Vocal Arts took on a big challenge this month with Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Adding to the challenges of the dificult opera, the heat was stifling in AVA’s shoebox theater. Just as well that the 13 emerging artists from all over the map weren’t in costume. So tight were they stuffed on stage for the concert performance – with music director Ghenady Meirson at the keyboard. Meirson needed a better piano for the ravages of this tale. Queen of Spades, based on Pushkin, is another love story that doesn’t end well. Herman, who gambles, also not well, has his heart set on Liza, who’s engaged to someone else. If he can win the secrets of the cards from Lisa’s grandmother, the countess, he thinks he’ll win the girl. Fate of course throws its hand. But not before lots of girl and guy friends put in their money’s worth. The cast of young singers in the Russian Workshop production at AVA were nicely matched. At the performance I heard (July 25). Herman was sung by tenor Steven Williamson of Westminster Choir College, who gave the role an increasingly obsessive ardor. Liza was Nathalie Avila, from Miami, whose power and range is immense. Michael J. Davis was an excellent Tomsky. Maude Paradis took the Countess or the Queen of Spades at this one but all the women’s roles were notable especially the governess of mezzo Raehann Bryce Davis of Manhattan, who sang the title other nights. Look for these young artists everywhere.