No star in the sky dazzled with as much brilliance as the glamorous Danielle de Niese at the Central Park Summer Stage last night. A favorite of ours since her days in the Lindemann program, Ms. de Niese just keeps getting better and better, her voice as sparkling as crystal and matched by some mighty fine interpretations and some gracious hosting of the first evening of the Metropolitan Opera's Summer Recital Series. Our favorite moment was hearing for the first time a concert aria composed by Mozart to accommodate the wishes of a soprano who wanted to replace his "Deh Vieni" from Nozze di Figaro--as Ms. N. explained before singing--"something with a lot of high and low notes". She was equally fine in several arias and duets by Donizetti, so light-heartedly perfect for a warm summer evening. Likewise for her "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi which surely made all the men in the audience want to satisfy her wishes. The coloratura was always quick and clean.
Partnered by venerable bass-baritone John Del Carlo in duets from Don Pasquale and L'Elisir d'Amore, not a shred of drama was lost; in the absence of sets and costumes, it is all up to the singers and, so good were they that the mind's eye supplied what was missing. Mr. Del Carlo commanded the stage in "A un dottor della mia sorte" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Dan Saunders accompanied and the orchestra went unmissed. Tenor Dimitri Pittas sang with equal dramatic intensity and some truly lovely diminuendi. Sadly, he tended to push his high notes instead of floating them. Not that the attentive audience had any reservations, judging by the applause for his "Una furtiva lagrima". His duet from L'Elisir d'Amore with Mr. Del Carlo was hilarious.
These outdoor events are generally plagued by much distraction from munchers, quaffers and texters. Let it be said that even opera neophytes who applauded in the middle of arias were more than usually attentive. That's what happens when such stellar beings take the stage. There are more performances to watch out for. Take note. Don't say we didn't tell you!
(c) meche kroop