We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Joyce DiDonato--photo by Ken Howard
Here you see the lovely mezzo Joyce DiDonato standing on the moors of Scotland with a painted backdrop of the sky.  Wait!  She's standing on the stage set of La Donna del Lago at the Santa Fe Opera and the SKY is REAL, seen through the proscenium.  Rossini sure had a thing for the mezzo voice and Ms. DiDonato made the most out of the master's gorgeous bel canto vocal lines. Her embellishments were as accurate as any we've heard and her trill gave us a thrill.

Here she portrays Elena in Andrea Leone Tottola's adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake"--given an Italian flavor of course.  Elena is the daughter of one Duglas d'Angus (performed by deeply resonant bass Wayne Tigges) who was once the tutor of Giacomo V--King James of Scotland; he has, at the time of the opera, joined the Highland Clan, opposed to James' rule.  He has plans for Elena to wed Rodrigo di Dhu, the fierce chief of this clan.  Elena has other ideas; she is in love with the more gentle Malcolm Groeme, portrayed by mezzo Marianna Pizzolato, who sings like an angel and looks nothing like a man.  The love duet between the two of them was one of the evening's highlights.

Fortunately, Rodrigo gets killed in an uprising and the only other rival for her hand is the king himself who, disguised as Umberto, has met her, accepted her hospitality and fallen in love with her also.  (And who wouldn't fall in love with the beautiful and charming Ms. DiDonato!)  It is the king's respect for Elena that finally heals the rift so that peace in Scotland is achieved.

Lawrence Brownlee sang the role of the king and RenĂ© Barbera the role of the ill-fated Rodrigo.  Both tenors have beautiful voices for the most part but both fell into the "tenor trap" of pushing their top notes instead of floating them, lending a harsh sound to otherwise fine bel canto singing.

We enjoyed seeing several apprentices onstage in smaller roles.  Soprano Lacy Sauter made a fine Albina--an interesting variation on the customary situation in which a mezzo is the confidante of the star soprano.  David Blalock and Joshua Dennis portrayed servants.

Maestro Stephen Lord conducted with high spirits and Paul Curran directed with a sure hand, making sense out of a confusing plot.   Costumes by Kevin Knight were appropriate to time and place; his sets were spare and lit by Duane Schuler to emphasize the gloom.  The chorus sang beautifully under the director of Susanne Sheston.

We understand that this production will appear at the Metropolitan Opera in a couple years.  How wonderful that New Yorkers will get to enjoy one of Rossini's lesser known operas.  Just don't expect the sunset!

© meche kroop

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