As the titular hero, bass Luca Pisaroni gives us vocalism and dramatic energy in spades. His Maometto is compelling--virile, dominant, vengeful and arrogant--a warrior who also has moments of tenderness, all of which is reflected in his multihued voice and total commitment to the role as he strides around the stage looking every bit the conqueror. Soprano Leah Crocetto has a coloratura of warmth and color; her fioritura is spot on. We wind up caring deeply for her character Anna, the daughter of a Venetian commander Erisso, so perfectly portrayed by tenor Bruce Sledge. Mr. Sledge's voice is strong but always pleasant to the ear and modulated to suit the mood of the scene. Mezzo Patricia Bardon won our admiration in her vivacious and accurately sung portrayal of Calbo whom Erisso has chosen as husband for his daughter.
What Erriso and Calbo don't know, but are soon to learn, is that Anna has fallen in love with Maometto who has deceived her into believing that he is a Venetian nobleman. Her anguish over this deception and its effect on her father and the risk to the Venetian efforts to hold onto the citadel at Negroponte make up the plot which sweeps us along in a great current of Rossinian melody, here so marvelous interpreted by Maestro Frederic Chaslin, leading the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. This opera is considered to be quite inventive for its time and also sadly neglected. Most operagoers think of comedy when they think of Rossini, but he has created some valuable tragic operas, of which this is surely one of the most important. He has given some beautiful melodic lines to the woodwinds and, at times of battle, to the brasses.
We have been impressed all season with the performance of the chorus, comprising apprentices who have been whipped into shape by chorus master Susanne Sheston. Peggy Hickey's choreography for the "Ninja warriors" was most interesting and added to the totality. David Alden's direction was straightforward and kept the action moving along.
Last night's performance also had a contribution from Mother Nature. Peals of thunder accompanied Ms. Crocetto and the astute lighting of Duane Schuler was abetted by bolts of lightning. In the final act, as the libretto speaks of fleeing the approaching storm, a handful of audience member did exactly that. We were happy to stay and revel in the gorgeous duets and trios as the cast of four worked through their complex issues with one another. Once again we have duty trumping love.
The interesting set by Jon Morrell comprises sliding curvilinear walls recreating the citadel and the church where Anna prays over her mother's ashes. Corinthian columns are in evidence, as is an engraving of a quote from Petrarch claiming that Venice is unique in its support of liberty and peace. Maometto's tent is suggested by a roof supported by a spear. Costumes also by Jon Morrell are interesting with Maometto's warriors dressed in black like Ninja warriors. Maometto's costume outshines everyone else's; he looks like Gengis Khan. The women are in soft robes as might have been worn in Rossini's day. There appears to be no definite commitment to the Byzantine period but it didn't seem to detract from the theme.
We hope to hear more Rossini in years to come!
(c) meche kroop