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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Michael Fennelly, Ricardo Tamura, Julia Rolwing, Daniel Cardona, Ann McMahon Quintero, Daniel Lickteig, Matthew Curran and Jeremy Galyon

When Daniel Cardona, Founder and Artistic Director of the Martha Cardona Theater, undertakes to present one of his evenings of opera, you can rest assured that the talent onstage will be unparalleled.  Last night at Christ and St. Stephens Church he presented Verdi's longest opera--but the evening flew by.  Truth to tell, he presented excerpts from the opera in concert version; all the major highlights were there--arresting arias, divine duets, terrific trios, and a quality quartet.

We don't know how Mr. Cardona managed to assemble such a perfect cast but it was a dazzling assemblage of talent.  As the tragic eponymous hero, we heard tenor Ricardo Tamura, often heard at The Metropolitan Opera.  Hint:  he is singing the role at The Met this Spring.  Don't say we didn't alert you.

As the woman he loves, the French Princess Elisabetta, we heard the fine soprano Julia Rolwing.  As his best friend Rodrigo, baritone Daniel Lickteig exhibited a fine tone and a sympathetic character.  The marvelous mezzo Ann McMahon Quintero took on the role of The Princess Eboli and somehow managed to evoke sympathy for this jealous vengeful character.

Even King Fillipo II, a thoroughly detestable character who has his own son murdered, as sung by bass Matthew Curran, had a moment of sympathy when he sang the famous aria "Ella giammai m'amo!"; an old man suffers when he realizes his wife, stolen from his son, never loved him.

The only character for which one can feel no sympathy whatsoever is The Grand Inquisitor.  Bass Jeremy Galyon has a particularly penetrating sound that was just right for the man that has even the King quaking in his boots!

So aptly cast were these singers and so perfectly sung were their roles that we were on the edge of our seat (a pew, actually).  Large voices all--the kind you rarely get to hear nowadays.

In the role of the page Tebaldo, the beautiful young soprano Madison Marie McIntosh revealed a gorgeous light tone that matched well with that of Ms. Quintero in a highly decorated vocal line.  About to graduate from Mannes, Ms. McIntosh has also made good use of her training with the good folks at Classic Lyric Arts.

The opera itself is one of our favorites.  Happily, the choice was to sing it in Italian in the Modena version, rather than the original French version.  Just as happily, the Fontainebleu scene was included; it shows how Don Carlo and Elisabetta fall in love and thereby justifies all the grief and jealousy and conflict which result.

The opera is about an impossible love; what's a man to do when his father decides to marry his intended bride for political reasons?  The opera is about loyalty; Rodrigo sacrifices his life so that Carlo can fulfill his political destiny.  The opera is about betrayal; Princess Eboli rats out her mistress Queen Elisabetta out of jealousy and envy. The opera is about power; King Phillip II (Fillipo II) has enough power to subjugate the poor Flemish, enough to get the girl, and enough to dispatch his son, but not enough to trump The Grand Inquisitor whose threats are anything but empty. It asks the question "How can love survive in an atmosphere of terror and suspicion?"

Some of our favorite scenes include the one in which Princess Eboli realizes that Don Carlo loves Elisabetta and not her.  What wrath was exhibited by Ms. Quintero! Another favorite was Filippo's aforementioned aria in which Mr. Curran succeeded in evoking our sympathy for this pathetic ruler. Ms. Quintero's "O don fatale" brought down the house.  Let us not forget the scene in which Rodrigo comes to Carlo's prison, accompanied by repetitive alternations between half-tones in the piano,  and expresses his loyalty and wish to die for his friend-- "Io morrò".  Mr. Tamura and Mr. Lickteig were incredibly effective in this duet.  Finally, Ms. Rolwing's handling of the wide jumps in "Tu che le vanità" were impressive.

The score was played on the piano by the always amazing Michael Fennelly.  Although this is one of the few remaining productions that The Met has yet to trash and one which we love, we enjoyed the piano reduction and the opportunity to hear some sensational voices.  

© meche kroop

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