|Craig Ketter, Rebecca Wilson, Pamela Lloyd, Olga Bakali, and Ryan Kinsella
Opera Dolce has been delighting New York audiences for six years. In the past few years they have been bringing the works of Antonio Carlos Gomes before the public. It is unfortunate that the works of this 19th c. Brazilian master have been overlooked. He was the first New World composer to be accepted in Europe; indeed his operas thrived in opera-hungry 19th c. Italy. It would be fair to say that his pot-boiler plots were no worse than those of the Italians.
Several of his operas dealt with themes of the Portuguese aristocrats rubbing up against the indigenous people of Brazil. This must have seemed exotic to the Europeans who lauded his work. We are unaware of his operas being presented in the United States in the present time, but it would be a pity to overlook his writing. Presenting his arias as "stand alones" is the approach taken by Opera Dolce and we are thrilled to hear his marvelously melodic arias and duets.
Last night's recital, Oceans Apart: Wagner and Gomes United in Music, presented his music alongside that of another titan of the 19th c., Richard Wagner, the great German Romantic whose lush orchestrations and new harmonies astonished the opera world. Gomes wrote in the Italian style but managed to incorporate influences from the senior Wagner.
New to us, but not new to the world of opera, was dramatic baritone Ryan Kinsella who made a superb long-suffering Dutchman in the duet "Wie aus der Ferne" from Richard Wagner's Der Fliegende Holländer. Mr. Kinsella's substantial voice was finely balanced by the brightly resonant voice of soprano Pamela Lloyd who portrayed Senta. There appeared to be no chemistry between the two characters at first but by the end of the aria, the Dutchman responded to Senta's earnestness.
Mr. Kinsella is masterful in using his full-throated voice to convey emotion while being spare in his gestures, making them all the more effective when he employs them. He barely moved his body in "O du mein holder Abendstern", Wolfram von Eschenbach's aria from Wagner's Tannhäuser but shaped his phrases with great beauty and dynamic precision.
He was far more theatrical in his other duet with Ms. Lloyd--"Fra questi fior che adori" from Gomes' Lo Schiavo in which the two singers got quite worked up. Gomes' minor key melody was gorgeous.
Ms. Lloyd, with her brilliant upper register demonstrated a great deal of strength in the lower register as she sang "Quale orribile peccato" from Gomes' Fosca, the tale of a really really bad woman who ends the opera by taking the poison she intended for her rival.
Soprano Olga Bakali was also new to us and impressed us with her powerful voice in "O ciel di Parahiba" from Gomes' Lo Schiavo. There is plenty of strength at the bottom and some beautifully drawn out pianissimi. She showed equal facility with Wagner, giving her all to "Elsa's Dream" from Wagner's Lohengrin. It was a nicely modulated performance, notable for her emotional connection. She was equally fine in the rapturous "Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
There was a third fine soprano on the program, also new to us and recently arrived from Chicago. Rebecca Wilson met "Dich teure Halle" head on, filling the exultant aria from Wagner's Tannhäuser with a huge sound. We hope our first hearing of this sizable voice will not be our last.
Accompanist for the evening was Craig Ketter who has a fine light touch at the piano and always seems supportive of the singers.
(c) meche kroop