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.
|Kasia Borowiec and Jarrett Ott in a scene from Eugene Onegin|
(photo by Bobby Gutierrez)
Our last night in Santa Fe was happily spent watching the apprentices show their stuff. And what stuff they showed! We were given to understand that the nine scenes were chosen to highlight the individual talents of the apprentices. We have nothing but plaudits for the singing, but we were not always in tune with the staging and costuming.
In the final scene from Tchaikovsky's masterpiece Eugene Onegin, Kasia Borowiec sang Tatiana with a fine tone and deep emotional involvement as she attempted to resist the blandishments of the eponymous Onegin, with whom she had been so infatuated a few years earlier.
Jarrett Ott took the role of the now lovesick Onegin in both hands and made it his own with his superb baritone and impassioned acting. The scene was directed by Jordan Fein. We could imagine no rationale for Nicole Grebb's dressing of Ms. Borowiec as a 1950's prom queen and robbing her of the 19th c. dignity that the role requires.
Similarly, the third act of Puccini's La Bohème was beautifully sung by Alexandra Razskazoff as the ill-fated Mimi and Jessica Jones as the fickle Musetta. We liked Benjamin Werley as Rodolfo and significant contributions were made by Nicholas Davis' Marcello.
Kyle Lang directed in the manner of film noir-- with costumes of the 1930's designed by Maria Nieto--a period just as remote from today's audience as the time in which the story took place, but with uglier clothes and hairstyles. To what end we could not fathom. Nothing was added to our understanding of the four bohemians.
Beautiful period costuming was provided by Krista Intravanuovo for Cendrillon in which Alyssa Martin captured all the delicacy of Massenet's deliciously Gallic tunes, with her suitor, the pants role of Le Prince Charmant, portrayed finely by mezzo-soprano Pascale Spinney. The harmony of their voices was stirring and we felt squarely in the fairy tale epoch, thanks to Matthew Ozawa's direction.
Similarly, there was an authentic feel of time and place given to his direction of the scene from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor--a confrontation between Lucia's lover Edgardo (tenor Derrek Stark) and her controlling brother Enrico (baritone Jared Bybee). The voices were well matched and the characterizations apt. We believed every moment. Caleb Howell designed the wonderful clan costuming.
Where Mr. Ozawa lapsed was in his staging of Tannhäuser which struck us as unsuitable to piano accompaniment. One could barely identify it as a work of Richard Wagner. The men were dressed in suits (Sharne van Ryneveld) and it felt like a corporate meeting. That being said, we heard some fine singing, especially from tenor Tyson Miller's Walther and bass Önay Köse's Biterolf. Tenor Cooper Nolan did well in the title role with David Leigh as the Landgrave, Adrian Smith as Wolfram, Andrew Maughan as Schreiber, and Andrew Bogard as Reinmar.
Kathleen Clawson directed a fine scene from Rossini's Guillaume Tell, another case in which the apposite costuming (Cheyenne Smith) added to the believability. Baritone Andrew Paulson made a fine Swiss patriot, helped along by Andrew Simpson as Walther, in convincing the wayward Arnold to return to the cause. This role was superbly sung by tenor Carlos Santelli. Everyone's French sounded just fine.
Ambroise Thomas' Mignon impressed us on all accounts. Sarah Coit was effective and moving as the unfortunate heroine and sang with a lovely free soprano. Carlos Santelli's fine tenor was heard in the role of Wilhelm Meister with bass-baritone Alan Higgs as the kind minstrel Lothario and baritone Nicholas Davis as the gypsy who sells Mignon to Herr Meister. The scene was directed by Kyle Lang with the perfect costumes by Tommy Cobau. It made us yearn to see the entire opera!
Bellini's Norma is one of our favorite operas and we were presented with two lovely harmonizing voices--the soprano of Tracy Cantin as the eponymous Druid priestess and the mezzo-soprano of Olivia Vote as her handmaiden Adalgisa. In this moving scene from Act II, Norma tries to persuade Adalgisa to look after her children. Why director Jordan Fein decided to set this gorgeous duet in the room of the children is a mystery and why they were in vaguely 20th c. costumes (Morgan Warner) is beyond me. It added nothing in terms of insight and detracted from the verisimilitude of the scene. The presence of a pistol was just plain jarring.
There was also a scene from a contemporary opera--Joby Talbot's Everest which premiered last year at The Dallas Opera. In spite of fine singing by tenor Tyson Miller as the expedition leader Rob, with mezzo-soprano Corrie Stallings as his wife and Mr. Bybee as Doug--the scene left us as cold as the climate on Everest and we have no wish to see the rest of the opera. Call us a Philistine if you wish but so many contemporary operas lack memorable vocal lines. Give us romance, give us passion, give us murder, give us suicide, give us arias!
(c) meche kroop