|Michael Pilafian, Judith Fredricks, Veronica Loiacono, Edgar Jaramillo, Theresa Panicaldi, Patricia Vital, Carlos Jimeno, and Elena Heimur at The Metropolitan Room
The theme for last night's Opera New York event at The Metropolitan Room was "Opera's Desperate Housewives: and the Men Who Made Them That Way". We were sure that we were going to hear Lucia's mad scene but we did not. Not to worry, there are plenty of opera heroines suffering at the hands of men, enough for several evenings.
Judith Fredricks, Artistic Director of Opera New York, is hard at work bringing opera to unusual venues and new audiences. Last night she served as Mistress of Ceremonies, introducing the arias to the audience and the audience to the arias. Although we were in a nightclub environment, the audience was rapt and completely quiet until they burst into wild applause at the end of each number. So yes, newbies can be turned onto opera and no, opera is not dying. There is nothing like hearing a trained voice without amplification and people respond readily to it.
In Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, the leader of a traveling circus is so controlling of his wife Nedda that he drives her into the arms of Silvio. As Ms. Fredricks pointed out, this will not end well. She further pointed out how the prologue serves the opera as an overture serves the symphony, introducing all the themes. In place of an orchestra, we had Michael Pilafian, the Music Director of Opera New York, at the piano--introducing all those themes. Baritone Carlos Jimeno sang the prologue in which the clown Tonio describes the upcoming action in "Si puo...si puo".
Later in the program, tenor Edgar Jaramillo sang "Vesti la giubba", the famous aria from the same opera in which Canio, the leader of the troop, expresses the misery he feels underneath the funny exterior of face paint and costumes. Mr. Jaramillo always sings with a depth of passion, almost wringing sympathy from the audience for this man who is about to kill his wife. Looks like Canio was the desperate one in this case!
Russians are also given to great passions and we heard two arias from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, arias sung by the unhappy Liza, driven to suicide by the neglect of her gambler/lover. We do not speak Russian but soprano Elena Heimur sounded great and sang with suitable passion.
Soprano Veronica Loiacono dazzled the audience in an interesting juxtaposition of two arias sung by the same character in two different operas by two different composers in two different languages. She sang Marguerite's Jewel Song "Ah, je ris" from Gounod's Faust in which Faust, under the tutelage of the devil, seduces the young innocent girl with a cask of jewelry. Ms. Loiacono's artistry shone in her tone and it shone in the fine French she employed.
From mad with joy to mad with sorrow, the character known as Marguerita in Boito's Mefistofele has a very sad mad scene in prison after she has killed her baby. The colors and the sound of Italian are quite different but Ms. Loiacono handled the change easily.
We were happy to see Patricia Vital once again and particularly enjoyed her portrayal of Ophelie in Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet. She performed "A vos jeux, mes amis" with excellent dramatic instinct. She appeared quite crazy, tearing up flowers, prior to drowning herself. We were quite moved. Her vocal skills included sensitive dynamics and the ability to float a high note. Mr. Pilafian's piano part was equally compelling.
New to us was soprano Theresa Panicaldi whose large voice and ample overtones did justice to "Vieni, t'affretta" from Verdi's Macbeth. In this case one would wonder from where Lady Macbeth's desperate hunger for power originated. She does go mad with guilt and dies but the source was herself. We have no man to blame here, unless her father did it!
With all that sturm und drang out of the way, the evening closed with something more tender--from Puccini's La Boheme. Mr. Jaramillo and Mr. Jimeno performed the nostalgic duet from Act IV "O Mimi". The finale of the evening was rather original--the Act III quartet from the same opera with Ms. Loiacono and Ms. Panicaldi both portraying Mimi with Mr. Jaramillo as Rodolfo (a role in which we first heard him and fell hard for his performance)--and Ms. Heimur and Ms. Vital both portraying Musetta to Mr. Jimeno's Marcello.
As an encore, the ensemble sang "Libiamo" from Act I of Verdi's La Traviata. Yes, Violetta did sink into declining health, despair, and death--at the hands of a provincial Giorgio Germont and his hot-headed son Alfredo. Thus we returned to the theme for the evening.
The audience was highly enthusiastic and our newbie friend found the evening joyful and fun, contrary to expectations of stultification.
(c) meche kroop