|Michael Pilafian, Edgar Jaramillo, Tate Chu, Judith Fredricks, and Joseph Flaxman|
What a clever title for a program of opera scenes, all of which dealt with death. Actors relish dying onstage and apparently so do singers. Last night's recital by Opera New York, helmed by Artistic Director Judith Fredricks, gave us lots of great music performed by a group of excellent young artists.
The first three scenes were extracted from Verdi operas, so you know the music was good-- but also challenging for the singers, who uniformly rose to the occasion.
In Ballo in Maschera, Riccardo, the Governor of Boston, meets his bloody end at the hands of his Secretary Renato, who has joined in the assassination plot because he learns of Riccardo's love for Amelia, his wife. Amelia tries to warn Riccardo, to no avail.
Edgar Jaramillo's warm tenor was perfect for the role of Riccardo and his bloody death by stabbing was convincing. Soprano Courtney Delisle made a fine Amelia; baritone Joseph Flaxman did well as Renato, and soprano Xueyan Fan opened the scene as Oscar, the page.
Opera New York has frequently put the Act IV quartet from Rigoletto on their programs, but this is the first time they have performed the final scene in which Gilda dies in the arms of her father. The actual stabbing had occurred earlier in the act at the hands of the assassin Sparafucile.
Here, we were able to get a better appreciation of the skills of Ms. Fan who went from the frisky Oscar to the tragic Gilda. The handsome Mr. Flaxman did a great job of hiding his assets under a black cloak and transforming himself into a hunchback. Mr. Jaramillo gave us some "La donna è mobile" from offstage and sounded great. Whoever was responsible for lighting (uncredited in the program) put the scene in the dark with flashing lights successfully creating the illusion of lightning.
In the third Verdi scene, extracted from Don Carlo, baritone Roberto Borgatti performed the role of the heroic and loyal Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who "takes a bullet" for his friend Don Carlo. We enjoyed hearing his "Per me giunto" and "Io morrò", happily recalling the time we heard Hvorostovsky sing the role at the Met.
The last operatic selection was the final scene from Gounod's Faust in which Marguerite, imprisoned for killing her newborn, of which Faust was the father, is visited by Faust and Méphistophélès. Soprano Tate Chu has a lovely instrument and was convincing as the unbalanced Marguerite. Mr. Jaramillo demonstrated his versatility by singing Faust in excellent French, and Mr. Flaxman created a devilish devil, dragging Faust away in a move reminiscent of the Commendatore dragging Don Giovanni to hell.
We even had organ music from Walter Hartman joining the offstage chorus for that uplifting spiritual moment. Otherwise, pianist and Music Director Michael Pilafian accompanied the singers with his customary professionalism.
All that death and dying was relieved by Scott O'Brien singing "If I Can't Love Her" from Alan Menken's Beauty and the Beast, and the dazzling coloratura of Jennifer Ter Keurst animating "Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's Candide, an aria that always leaves us happy and humming
(c) meche kroop