It was during the set of Strauss songs that we had this thought: "Ms. Quintiliani was born to sing Strauss". Then we realized that during the Donizetti we thought her voice was perfect for bel canto. By the end we realized that this abundantly gifted soprano could sing just about anything.
With an instrument that is as flexible as it is ample, this artist also has a delightful and engaging stage presence and a winning sense of humor. There is not a whiff of diva about her. She could be the girl next door until she opens her mouth to sing. She possesses a voice of great power that she can rein in with consummate control in the pianissimo passages.
Although she states that she is mostly given work as a crazy harridan, we enjoyed the way she can also express tenderness as in Strauss' tear-jerker "Befreit" in which a couple faces the death of one of them with courage and acceptance. Nonetheless, our favorite in the Strauss set was "Die Nacht".
The first time we heard Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia was at Caramoor last summer and we were thrilled to get a second hearing of "M'odi, ah M'odi...Era desso" in which the titular character is begging her son to accept the antidote to the poison she has just administered (!). She goes through a panoply of emotions ending in remorse and abject grief. Ms. Quintiliani got them all right with a veritable explosion of fioritura.
She gave a fine performance of four early songs by Verdi in which one can hear his bel canto roots as well as the crafting of melodies one would observe in his later operas. Our hands-down favorite was "Non t'accostare all'urna" in which the ghost of the singer berates the man who grieves-- his love is too little and too late. Ms. Q's voice dripped with rejection and scorn. There was an enviable portamento as well.
To relieve the intensity, Ms. Q. sang the delightful "Brindisi" to which collaborative pianist Sean Kelly provided the oom-pah-pah accompaniment.
Also on the program was an aria from Cherubini's Médée--"Vous voyez de vos fils", in which the heroine gives way to her fury which remains an undercurrent even when she pleads for Jason's return. We never heard Callas sing it but we don't think there could be a more fiery performance than the one we heard last night.
We also heard two songs that were new to us by the Dutch/American composer Richard Hageman in which the piano writing was particularly lovely and beautifully played by Mr. Kelly.
"Ocean! thou mighty monster" from Carl Maria von Weber's Oberon closed the program but didn't end the delights, since Ms. Q. provided a most welcome encore--"Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" from Catalanis La Wally. It was then that we had the thought: "This artist is born to sing realismo opera". Now we are wondering what she sounds like in something by Wagner. That's just something to look forward to! Martha Cardona Theater might just be the one to undertake that! Daniel Cardona, are you listening?
Let it be noted that diction was equally fine in English, Italian, French and German.
© meche kroop