|Nicholas Davis, Jarrett Ott, and Daniel Bates (photo by Kate Russell)
We are always filled with anticipation when planning our annual summer trip to Santa Fe. The quality of the operas is always top-notch and the mountainous location of the opera house is magnificent. But the highlight of the trip is always the evenings of Apprentice Scenes on Sunday night.
Selected from a vast pool of applicants, these 40 young artists never fail to delight with their native talent, honed by the superb training they receive. For two consecutive Sundays evenings, eager audiences are able to enjoy these stars of tomorrow with all their artistry and enthusiasm. We have heard from several of them how greatly they prize this performance opportunity.
Indeed, the two couples we introduced to opera this season have become fans. Did we mention that the cost is excessively modest? It's a fine way for newbies to see excerpts from several operas and learn about their preferences.
Although a piano is substituted for the orchestra, production values are flawless; costuming is always appropriate, as are the simple sets. Direction is superb.
Today we will tell you about evening #1, with tales of evening #2 to follow. The program got off to a delightful start with scenes from the first act of Mozart's Cosí fan tutte. If ever an opera was more perfectly written for young performers, we could not name it. Two soldiers, Ferrando (played by the sweet-voiced tenor Daniel Bates) and Guglielmo (portrayed by the rising star baritone Jarrett Ott) boast about the fidelity of their sweethearts Fiordiligi (bright soprano Rebecca Krynski) and Dorabella (mezzo-soprano Alyssa Martin, who has a nice counterbalancing weight to her instrument).
An older man, a bartender in Director Kathleen Clawson's modern dress interpretation, scoffs at them and designs a bet to prove that all women stray. In this role, Nicholas Davis employed his fine baritone voice and comedic skills to good advantage. The horseplay among the three men was hilarious. The two women did a great job of depicting vain silly girls and their duet was divine.
A scene from Händel's Serse followed, a scene that left no comedic stone unturned, thanks to Louisa Muller's fine direction. Mezzo-soprano Megan Marino in a giggle-worthy moustache portrayed a Russian general. (We know it was Russia because there was a large upraised communist fist towering over the set). Her Serse was an irredeemable skirt chaser; her over-the-top portrayal provided ample opportunity for coloratura, in which her attack and execution garnered wild applause.
As rejecting Romilda, the unwilling recipient of his attention, soprano Adelaide Boedecker gave a stylish performance. We enjoyed the duet between Elviro (bass Kevin Thompson) and Amastre (mezzo Shabnam Kalbasi).
On a more serious note was the famous duet from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles in which Nadir and Zurga express their rivalry. Tenor John Myers gave a well-modulated performance that harmonized beautifully with baritone Jorell Williams, from whom we have never heard a performance less than first-rate. The French diction was truly excellent. A real audience-pleaser that "Au fond du temple saint"! Never fails--two gorgeous male voices and the audience swoons. As we did.
From our favorite Wagnerian opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, we heard the glorious closing quintet from Act III, beautifully directed by Mary Birnbaum. This is the scene in which Eva (the fine soprano Alexandra Raszkazoff) comes to Hans Sachs (Adrian Smith with his burly bass-baritone) to get her shoe fixed. It is the scene in which Sachs becomes aware of the very evident chemistry between Eva and Walther (tenor Benjamin Werley). And shoemaker apprentice David (tenor Derrek Stark) gets promoted to journeyman. Mezzo Olivia Vote portrayed his sweetheart Magdalena. Every vocal and dramatic moment was made crystal clear. German diction was great.
We never pass up a chance to hear Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. How well we remember the 2010 production in Santa Fe! Ms. Birnbaum staged the Venice scene with creativity. Mezzos Briana Hunter as the courtesan Giulietta and Anne Marie Stanley as Nicklausse sang a most sensuous duet. Bass Calvin Griffin as Dappertutto sang "Scintille diamant" as well as we have ever heard it--with a great deal of menace. Tenor Christopher Trapani made a fine Hoffman with tenor Tyson Miller and Mr. Williams as Pittichinaccio and Schlemil respectively. More fine French was heard.
Verdi's Otello will never be replaced by Rossini's but as an enormous fan of bel canto, we were very very happy to hear our young artists demonstrate fine flexibility in the fioritura. Tenor Jack Swanson sang Rodrigo, tenor Aaron Short sang Otello, and soprano Alyssa Martin sang Desdemona. The story unfolds rather differently but Ms. Clawson's direction made things clear.
The only scene on the program which didn't thrill us was from Moore's Enemies: A Love Story. Three women sang monologues--not very interesting dramatically or vocally. Sadly the diction was so flawed we failed to determine what they were singing about. English is notoriously difficult to sing in a manner that is comprehensible but the final piece on the program proved that it can be done.
It was the scene of the "Mechanicals" from Act III of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This early 20th c. work is pure delight and the large cast threw themselves into the fun with great gusto. We can never figure out who's who so we will just list all those wildly costumed craftsmen as a group. They were all hilarious and sang well! Tyson Miller, Galeano Salas, Michael Adams, Nicholas Brownlee, Calvin Griffin, and Peter Tomaszewski. We wish we had a video of their antics.
As the bored and supercilious royal audience, we heard bass Tyler Putnam as Theseus with a (feminine) Ms. Marino as his Hippolyta, Ms. Krynski as Helena, Mr. Ott as Demetrius, Mr. Stark as Lysander and Ms. Hunter as Hermia. Ms. Muller's direction was outstanding and the evening ended on a joyous note with the audience walking out grinning into the crisp night air.
(c) meche kroop