|Brian Holman, Ruth Ann Cunningham, Emanuel Mora, and Anita Lyons|
An opportunity to hear our two favorite scenes from Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle seemed like just the right thing to do on a Sunday evening. The two scenes are incredibly moving when performed the way Wagner intended, as a gesamtkunstwerk. So, how would a piano reduction work, we wondered, with the scenes extracted from their respective operas and sung without costumes and sets?
In the hands of Brian Holman the piano part worked very well indeed. His artistry brought out each leitmotif with clarity and fluency. We could not feel the same enthusiasm for the singing, largely due to the use of music stands; this condition impaired the singers' ability to connect with each other and thereby to draw the audience in.
When Sieglinde and Siegmund recognize one another as long lost twins, we want to feel that special shiver, just as we do when Siegfried awakens Brünnhilde with a kiss. We confess to being a romantic!
These two duets are quite difficult ones and we admire the artists for tackling them with such gusto, but it doesn't make the grade when we are distracted by singers glancing down and turning pages.
Soprano Anita Lyons did the best at acting the part of the newly aroused warrior maiden and sang as best she could under the circumstances. Everyone did the best they could but it wasn't good enough. Tenor Emanuel Mora's German was marred by his "icky" pronunciation of the final "ich".
The second half of the concert came across better as the three singers took on Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. There appeared to be less reliance on the scores placed on music stands. Ms. Lyons made a fine impassioned Santuzza, singing "Voi lo sapete, o Mamma", establishing sympathy for her "wronged woman". She evinced fine phrasing.
Everyone seemed more comfortable in the Italian and the catfight between Lola and Santuzza was more convincing. As the seductive Lola, soprano Ruth Ann Cunningham set up a character that we could dislike. As the faithless and duplicitous Turridu, Mr. Mora showed the anguish of being caught in the middle between the pregnant Santuzza and the married Lola. One couldn't help thinking that this snake deserves what he gets at the end of the opera!
This was the inaugural concert of the New York Verismo/Wagner Opera Guild. There are not many performance opportunities for this challenging repertoire. We wish them well, but we hold to our position that if you want to attract an audience you have to put the work in to commit to memory that which you are presenting. Otherwise the audience feels as if they are at a sight-reading.
The concert was dedicated to the memory of Patricia Sage, the coach and music director of the Wagner Theater Program in which Ms. Cunningham and Mr. Mora participated.
(c) meche kroop