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, December 6, 2012


Vincenzo Bellini
Could Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne have sung it any better in 1961?  Having never seen nor heard Vincenzo Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda, we jumped at the chance to hear a concert version of this rarely performed masterpiece of the bel canto period.  Long luscious vocal lines and gorgeous instrumentation made up for the rather tedious libretto by Felice Romani.  Have we heard this story before? Tyranical husband?  Check.  Falsely accused wife?  Check.  Husband in love with another woman?  Check.  The tyrannical Duke of Milan is in love with Agnese who is in love with Orombello who is in love with the widow Beatrice who should never have married the Duke.  Got all that?

This timeless but overworked plot is familiar this year by way of Anna Bolena at the Met.  If only the famous soprano who valiantly attempted the bel canto style of singing had coached with Angela Meade!  Her voice is as ample as her body and filled Carnegie Hall with ringy-pingy sound that was never harsh but somehow soothing and simultaneously exciting to the ear with perfectly executed fioritura, perfect vibrato and liquid trills.  Mezzo Jamie Barton, another big girl with a big voice, did equal justice to the role of Agnese, singing with poise and the requisite phrasing so necessary for Bellini.  The evil Duke of Milan was sung by baritone Nicholas Pallesen in wonderful style, fearless technique and all-around gorgeousness.  His final scena in which he expresses his ambivalence toward his wife's sentence kept us on the edge of our seat. Tenors Michael Spyres and Nicholas Houhoulis were no less terrific.  This was a case of luxury casting indeed!  Voices blended beautifully in duets and the Act II quintet.

James Bagwell conducted the American Syphony Orchestra with gusto and precision, limning Bellini's matchless melodies and orchestration.  We heard some delightfully delicate harp playing accompanying Agnese's opening offstage aria as well as some fine sounds from the wind section toward the end.  The Collegiate Chorale, positioned as a Greek chorus admonishing or supporting the major players, was glorious.  This opera surely deserves more attention.

(c) meche kroop

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