Opera Reviews

The In Series presented Donizetti’s Don Pasquale with humor and it was performed in English.

 

This comic opera was funny and Bari Biern was ingenious in the way she presented the text as hilarious while it rhymed as in a poem.  She also had to make the note values for the score and the timing of the words coincide perfectly.  It was truly an amazing job.

 

All members of the cast, including the supporting ensemble performers were always acting while on stage.  They were constantly in character for their respective roles.  The supporting cast included Elliot Matheny, Garrett Matthews, Beth Rubens (mezzo-soprano) and Chris Herman also playing the role of the Justice of the Peace. 

 

Stanley Thurston was able to make a four person ensemble sound good as a substitute for a full orchestra.   The sound was sufficient to fill the intimate setting of the GALA Hispanic Theatre.

 

Suzanne Lane possesses a lovely lyric and coloratura voice.  Her range and her vocal ability are truly amazing.  She sang incredible high notes with ease.  She is also a wonderful actress, playing the self-centered sister of Dr. Malatesta (means bad testimony in Italian).  She is really Norina, but Dr. Malatesta presents her to Don Pasquale (played by Raymond Ghattas) as his sister.  She spends all of Don Pasquale’s money so that he will not want her, and in the end the plan for Don Pasquale to let her marry Ernesto comes true.

 

Raymond Ghattas played a very devious Dr. Malatesta.  His voice was powerful and there were parts of the music where he was probably singing sixteenth notes with a syllable on almost every note!  His articulation was amazing.

 

Terry Eberhardt plays a lecherous Don Pasquale.  This baritone was quite funny in his role.  The color of his voice matched his demeanor.  He truly was hilarious as an over-the-hill rock star.

 

David Wolff who played Ernesto did a marvelous job with his acting.  His voice was able to perform his role, but it sounded a bit strained.  Perhaps the fact that he sang the previous evening, affected his vocal strength.  Future performances will allow a day of rest for his voice between operas.

 

With ticket prices from $23 to $46 this is an opportunity to see opera that is affordable.  There will be two more performances of Don Pasquale on March 24 and on March 26.  April 29 and April 30 there will be a presentation of Passion and Struggle.  Performances of Oberon will be presented on Saturday June 10, Sunday June 11, and Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18.

 

The In Series

Verdi’s

La Traviata 

June 14 - 28

 

June 14 through June 28 the In Series presents La Traviata, a story that was controversial in its opening, about a courtesan with "consumption" or tuberculosis.  

 Nick Olcott’s production of La Traviata is a wonderfully quaint setting of the opera.  He uses the space at the GALA Theater at 3333 14th Street NW, Washington D. C.  20010, in excellent taste.  There was a small chamber orchestra of strings and a piano.  The pianist, Paul Leavitt, was particularly talented both directing the chamber as well as playing the principal melody of the opera.  He is a graduate of Julliard and a 1989 laureate of the International Steinway Competition in Paris, France.

Randa Rouweyha played a very vulnerable Violetta.   From the beginning of the opera she plays the carefree courtesan, juxtaposed to her vulnerable side in her presentation of her character from the beginning of the opera.  She has performed many roles for the In Series this year including:  Courtney in The Cole Porter Project and Anna in Puccini’s Le Villi.  Her other roles are Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, the foreign woman in Menotti’s to name a few.

Jesus Daniel-Hernandez played a very sensitive Alfredo.    His voice was very powerful and yet very sweet in his tender arias.  His career began when he met Placido Domingo and had an impromptu audition and was fortunate enough to join the Placido Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.  His other roles include the Duke in Rigoletto, Rodolfo in La Boheme, Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly and Don Jose in Carmen.

Jose Sacin played a warm and very sympathetic Giorgio Germont, the father of Alfredo.  His vocal tone was warm and powerful.  He has sung internationally with Placido Domingo, Veronica Villaroel, Alessandra Marc, Enrique Ricci and Will Crutchfield.  He has also performed with the Washington National Opera, Baltimore Opera, Camerata of Washington and many other regional choruses. 

Other characters performed their roles respectively:  Samual Keeler played Giuseppe, Jason Lee performed Gaston, Patricial Portillo performed Flora, James Shaffran played Dr. Grenvil and Carrie-Anne Winter performed Annina.  These performers all presented a polished and professional sound.   Their acting skills and their vocal beauty added character to the opera.

The ensemble was very professional sounding and included Christine Browne-Munz, Annie Gill and Tia Wortham as well as some of the principals doubling to help the chorus.  

This production is a high-quality production at a very affordable price.  The quality of the music of the chamber orchestra was very well done.   The sets are tastefully done and the acting of all of the singers is wonderful, but of particular note Randa Rouweyha is a very vulnerable and likeable Violetta. 

 If you love opera, you cannot afford to miss this opera.  It is playing throughout June 28.  You can go to their website at www.inseries.org

 

The Washington Chorus presents an all-Verdi program 

at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

 

The professionalism of the chorus and soloists presented on Sunday evening for the Washington Chorus’s  “Essential Verdi” program was vocally mature and showed the ability of Maestro Julian Wachner to hone the vocal skills of a large chorus as well his ability to keep the orchestra and the vocalists consistent in texture, tempo and vocal color.  The chorus performed choruses from Verdi’s operas Nabucco(“Va, pensiero”),  Rigoletto (“La donna e mobile”), “Vedi! lefosche notturne spoglie” from Il trovatore and two choruses from the Verdi Requiem, to mention just a few of the choruses.  Also included were Verdi favorites like choruses and arias from La traviata, Aida and Quattro Pezzi Sacri from Verdi’s “Te Deum.”  Overall it was quite an all-encompassing program of Verdi’s best choruses and arias.

All of the soloists were highly proficient in their articulation and vocal ability, but of particular note were the sopranos.  Corinne Winters performed the role of Violetta in La traviata, singing the aria “Sempre libera.”  Her magnificent proficiency in articulating the marcatto notes in the phrasing of the aria was lovely.  Ms. Winters’ resume includes performing with the Santa Fe Opera as Soon Ching-Ling in the American premiere of “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen”, the Kentucky Opera as Mimi in “La boheme”, as Violetta in La traviata with the Michigan Opera, to name a few.  Ola Rafalo, the mezzo soprano who sang the role of Flora had great depth in her vocal color.  She also possessed great power in her voice.  Since it is harder to achieve a forte in a lower vocal range, this made her powerful phrases even that much more impressive.  She has performed the roles of Fenena in Nabucco with the Lyric Opera Baltimore and Opera Carolina, Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo with Pacific Symphony, Vivaldi’s Gloria with Mid-America Productions at Carnegie Hall and performed as a young artist in the Palm Beach Opera company’s Young Artist Program, just to name a few of her accomplishments.  Canadian-American soprano Othalie Graham is renowned for her interpretation of the role of Turandot6 and has performed that role with Michigan Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera to name a few.  She has also played the role of Isolde in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Minnie in La Fanciulla del West as well a singing in the Verdi Requiem. 

The tenors and baritone also had very wonderful voices.  Tenor John McVeigh has performed Pang in Turandot with Hawaii Opera Theatre, has covered for the role of Bardolfo in Falstaff with the Metropolitan Opera and will return to the Houston Grand Opera for productions of Carmen and Das Rheingold as well as performing with the Mark Morris Dance Group for the Lincoln Center White Light Festival.  His voice was very light.  Dramatic tenor Issachah Savage has performed with Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic.  He has also performed Gershwin’s Blue Monday with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony.  His voice has a beautiful texture and color.  He is also the grand prize winner of the 2012 Marcello Giordani International Competition.  Stephen Salter’s wide range of repertoire has made him a much sought-after baritone in Europe, the UK, Asia and the United States.  He created the title role in Elena Ruehr’s Toussaint Before the Spirits for Opera Boston, where the Boston Globe called him a thrilling singer.  He received praise in his performance of the world premiere of Philippe Fenelon’s Les Rois for Opera National in Bordeaux, as well as his performances of Shostakovich’s The Nose, Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and many more.  Jesse Neace has a warm and full bass-baritone voice.  He has sung for six seasons with the Knoxville Opera Company and has performed as a soloist with many American opera companies performing roles of Colline (La boheme), Don Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd) and Olin Blitch (Susannah).  Peter Volpe has received critical acclaim over four continents and has performed an amazing 80 roles, with a captivating interpretive skill brining the characters to life.

Sunday evening was an amazing and beautiful tapestry of Verdi characters.  The Washington Chorus has demonstrated its ability to tackle difficult serious music and master it well.

Virginia Opera’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” is a brilliant staging of Strauss’s opera

 

The Virginia Opera’s performance of “Ariadne  auf Naxos” was superior to the Washington National Opera’s (WNO) version performed several years ago.  The Virginia Opera begins the tale with a contemporary costuming in the “Prologue” where the opera performers are waiting to go onstage, when the stage manager comes in and promptly announces that there will be two operas performed simultaneously, to the horror of the diva performing the role of Ariadne.  The Virginia Opera accomplishes the melting together of the two operas (one comic and one tragic) in a magnificent way.


A “nouveau riche” or “newly rich” gentleman hosts a lavish party.  He wants to combine both tragic and comic operas together – an impossible task according to the composer, stage manager and the performers.  His request must be obeyed because the composer and the performers need  the 500 dulca  he is willing to pay them.  The diva who is to perform in the tragic opera feels that she is above the other performers and makes the prospect of achieving the combination of tragic and comic operas even more unlikely.  Her capricious actions were comic adding to the humor of the opera.


Maestro Garrett Keast kept the singers and the orchestra in tempo together.  He also was able to be fully aware of the the singer’s entrances and able to direct them, while still be fully cognizant of the orchestral tapestry supporting the vocal parts.  Both the orchestral nuances and the vocal phrasing in the second half of the opera where they simultaneously perform tragic opera and buffs opera was done very creatively. 


Blood, passion and gravitas comes to the Center for the Arts in the Virginia Opera’s presentation of Carmen by Bizet.

 

Although Carmen was a flop at the premiere at the Opera-Comique in Paris in 1875 because of the scandalous nature of the character Carmen, it is a popular opera favorite today.  The Virginia Opera’s performance Friday evening was no exception.  In fact this production was so fabulous that the audience was mesmerized by the characterization of Carmen by Ginger Costa-Jackson.  

Ms. Ginger Costa-Jackson is a truly seductive siren.  Her acting was very convincing and elicited a strong emotional response.  Not only is her acting amazing, but also her beauty and her delightful vocal color combined into her magnificent performance to make her a truly memorable Carmen.  Of the several other Carmen’s I have seen perform this role, she truly stands out as unique.  The movement of her body into seductive poses while belting out the forte notes in her musical climaxes was simply amazing.  It is a fresh and haunting performance. 

It is easy to see why Ginger Costa-Jackson was a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann program.  Her vocal skill as well as her acting is spot on.  Her debut in the role of Carmen was at the Glimmerglass Festival in New York.  Her other roles include Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, Smaragdi in Francesca da Rimini and Mercedes in Carmen.  

Her partner in crime in this tragic romance is the flamboyant protagonist "innocent turned bad boy "character, Don Jose, played by Dinyar Vania.  His tenor voice was beautifully focused in his opening aria, where his betrothed Micaela seeks to give him a message from his mother.    But as the opera progresses Dinyar transforms into his dark and violent self.  His portrayal of the evil Don Jose is a gradual crescendo into the fateful shadow to come.  His final scene with Ginger is dramatic.  He demonstrates his acting in the ominous final death scene and is marvelous.   

Corinne Winters, who plays Micaela possesses a clear and focused vocal quality.  Her ability to play the innocent is only surpassed by her bell-like vocals.  She also plays roles with the Santa Fe Opera as Soon Ching Ling, with the Kentucky Opera as Mimi and the Michigan Opera Theatre as Violetta to name a few of her roles.  

The chorus is well blended and animated.  The backdrop they presented for Carmen’s scene outside the cigarette factory was humorous, as the seductress enchants multiple men.  

There is also choreography performed during scenes, which is well blended with the chorus.  The Stage Director Mr. Tazewell Thompson and the Choreographer and Fight Director Mr. Anthony Salatino worked well together coordinating the scenes to produce a dramatic effect.  

Maestro John DeMain in his 20th season as Music Director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and as a Tony Award-winning conductor, brings finesse and sensitivity to the Virginia Opera orchestra and chorus.  His attention to fine details such as tempi, nuance of instrumental sections and awareness of the soloists is evident in his conducting.

The Virginia Opera presents an encore performance on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.  For any opera lover this version of Carmen is a must see!


Opera Lafayette presents Les Femmes Vengées in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center

 

Les Femmes Vengees a 1775 opéra-comique by Philador and Sedaine with libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte is the continuation of the story of the two couples from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. Opera Lafayette presented the American premiere at the Terrace Theater in the Kennedy Center.  The plot exposes antics that occur during their marriages between the characters.  A mirror image of the plot in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, it continues the plot of twists and turns between the characters of the four fickle lovers but this time the women uncover their husband’s infidelities instead of the men discovering their finances straying.  It truly has the French perspective of infidelity by making the theme light with comic scenes.  It was roaringly hilarious and showcased the lovely bel canto voices of the cast.  


I find it interesting that the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (whose original name was Emmanuele Conegliano)  had a very interesting and many-faceted life that may have led to his writing the text for the opera.  He was Jewish by birth, later was baptized in 1763 and became a priest, but was defrocked by the church because of an adulterous affair.  In 1779 the Venetian state expelled him and in 1780 he became official poet to the court of Emperor Joseph II where he wrote librettos for numerous musicians.   He met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart where they collaborated, thus producing  Così fan tutte (1790), Le nozze di Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787).  Da Ponte wrote the libretto for Les Femmes Vengees in his collaboration with Philador and Sedaine.


Michel-Jean Sedaine a French dramatist and librettist who collaborated with Da Ponte in the writing of Les Femmes Vengees was particularly famous for his writing operas comiques set to vaudeville scenes or light opera skits with music by Philidor.  The collaboration between Sedaine and Da Ponte supplied the textual humor for Philador’s score.


Thursday evening’s dress rehearsal of Les Femmes Vengees was a combination of hilarity and gorgeous vocal sounds resonating throughout the Terrace Theater.   Each character performed their respective roles with delightful comical acting flare and each distinctive voice was clear and vibrant in its own right.  Of particular note was  Claire Debono who played Madame Delphine Riss (the wife of the painter).  Her lovely soprano voice had a healthy and tight vibrato that was simply gorgeous. 


The other two female leads were also very delightful to listen to.  Each were well suited to their particular roles.  The acting skills of both the female characters, Fleurdelise and Dorabelle are amply hilarious as they avenge of their husbands’ infidelities.  Ms. Beaudin and Ms. Staskiewicz are equally beautiful in performing their delightful arias with the vocal prowess of  true opera divas.  


American tenor Jeffrey Thompson who plays Monsieur Riss is one of the most humorous characters.  He and his wife are quite a team of conspirators in this conspiracy to dismantle the arrogance of the two husbands, Monsieur la Presidente and Monsieur Lek.  It is all together a most uproarious opera comique.   


Below is a listing of upcoming performances of Les Femmes Vengees by Opera Lafayette:


Thursday, January 23, 2014, following Cosi Fan Tutte

Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

Saturday, February 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m., Versailles

Sunday, February 2, 2014, 8:00 p.m., Versailles


Check out the Opera Lafayette website for more details at www.operalafayette.org.





Ryan Brown,

conductor and

artistic director

Credit: Stan 

Barouh


Alex Dobson
Guillaume
Credit:  Jimmy song

Pascale Beaudin
Fleurdelise

Blandine Staskiewicz Dorabelle

Blandine
Staskiewicz
Dorabelle





Claire Debono Delphine
 

Antonio Figueroa Claire Debono

Fernand               Delphine





Opera Lafayette's French "Cosi fan tutte"


Opera Lafayette’s French language version of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center was delightfully funny as expected.  The audience truly appreciated the comic relief, the arias and the recitatives that were spoken rather than song-speech in the traditional sung recitative style, because that is the way it would have been done in Paris in Opera Comique.  The staging was lovely, and the costumes complemented the staging and the era.


Ryan Brown, the founder, conductor and artistic director has gained an international reputation for his interpretation of 18th century French opera, which include tragedie lyrique, opera-ballet, opera-comique, pastorale and drammagiocoso.  His Naxos discography includes composers such as Gluck, Rameau, Sacchini, Rebel, Francoeur, Lully, Charpentier, Monsigny and Gretry.   He has been praised for his revival of Felicien David’s orientalist fantasy Lalla Rouch, as well as his interpretations of Mozart, Haydn, Paisiello and Cimarosa.  He led Opera Lafayette in its international debut at the Opera Royal in Versailles. 


Of particular note for vocal beauty was Claire Debono, who played several roles, including Delphine and Madame Riss (the wife of the painter).  Her lovely soprano voice had a healthy and tight vibrato that was simply gorgeous.  She recently performed The Rake’s Progress at the Theatre de la Monnaie, as well as many other roles, including performances of Idomeneo (Ilia) with Les Arts Florissants, Hanako (Hanjo) and Despina (Cosi fan tutee) for Opera de Lyon.  She also performed concert opera of Don Giovanni (Zerlina) for the Teatre Royal de la Monnaie on its Japan tour.  She also played Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro for the English National Opera and Opera de Lyon and many more roles.  Her extensive experience and strong vocal repertoire makes her in high demand.


The other two female leads were also very delightful to listen to.  Each were well suited to their particular roles.


Pascale Beadin began her career at the Opera de Montreal in the roles of Zerlina (Don Giovanni, Mozart) and Oscar (Un ball in maschera, Verdi).  She has also sung Papagena (Die Zauderflote, Mozart), Nanneta (Falstaff, Verdi) and Gabrielle (La Vie parisienne, Offenbach), Adele (Le comte Ory, Rossini), Flaminia (II mondo della luna) and many more.  Her portrayal of Fleurdelise showed her acting skills.  She was very convincing as the fiancée who appeared to remain faithful, until at the end she finally yielded to the tempter.  Her voice was strong and beautiful.


Blandine Staskiewicz who played Dorabelle revealed a more easily tempted character.  Her voice was strong and she truly encompassed the comique aspect of her character and of the opera.  Her many accomplishments include winning the Voix d’Or competition and the Concours International de Chant Baroque de Chimay in Belgium.  She has appeared in many European festivals including Monteverdi’s Vespers at the Festival d’Ambronay, Festival Haendel a Halle in Germany and the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, France.


Ms. Staskiewicz’s operatic repertoire includes as Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutee, the Second Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote and Oreste in Offenbach’s Le Belle Helene and many more.  She also recorded Medoro in Vivaldi’s Orlando Furioso with the Ensemble Matheur and won the 2004 Best Recording prize from Victoires de la Musique.


Both of the principal male vocalists played their roles with the utmost hilarity.  When they were disguised as visiting friends of the elder host, Don Alphonse, their costumes were reminiscent of Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett with one wearing a coon-tail cap and suede fringed pioneer-styled garment.  Along with mustaches that were so obviously fake, that it made their deception to the females even more unbelievable, emphasizing the ridiculousness of their roles, emphasizing the comique aspect of the opera.


Alexander Dobson played Guillaume in this opera.  He sang and acted consistent with his comic character.  He was a delight to behold.  He recently played Wozzeck with Theatre du Nouveau Monde and Orchestre Metropolitain, for which he was lauded by the Journal Voir for his “gripping embodiment of Wozzeck.”  Other roles include Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte), Belcore (L’elisirb d’amore), Ned Keene (Peter Grimes), Marcello (La Boheme), Silvio (Pagliacci), Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos) and many more.


Antonio Figueroa played Fernand with humor.  His voice was lovely and strong.  He just completed a world tour playing Tamino in Peter Brook’s production of Mozart’s A Magic Flute.  He received the Silverman prize for his interpretation of Belmonte (Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail).  


Bernard Deletre who played Don Alphonse was very commanding in his stage presence. His booming voice brought a special attention to his character.  He specializes in baroque opera having performed with New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, Opera Lafayette, Boston Early Music Festival and Montreal Baroque just to name a few.  He is equally gifted as a comedic actor and has been praised for his role as Jean de La Fontine in Daniel Soulier’s play La Veuve et le grill on.


The next performance of Opera Lafayette will be on January 17, 2014.  I highly recommend attending this performance, I am sure it will sell out.





Ryan Brown,

conductor and

artistic director

Credit: Stan 

Barouh


Alex Dobson
Guillaume
Credit:  Jimmy song

Pascale Beaudin
Fleurdelise

Blandine Staskiewicz Dorabelle

Blandine
Staskiewicz
Dorabelle





Claire Debono Delphine
 

Antonio Figueroa Claire Debono

Fernand               Delphine





I masnadieri at Lisner Auditorium

September 22, 2013


The opera by Giuseppe Verdi named I masnadieri, or The Bandits, is a tale of deception, intrigue and consequences.  Francesco, played by Scott Hendricks, is the villain.  He deceives everyone and wants his father Count Massimiliano dead so he can assume his title and power.  Carlo, played by Russell Thomas, is the eldest brother and favored by the father.  Amalia, played by Lisette Oropesa, is the innocent fiancé of Carlo who is glorious in her portrayal of the sweet and lovely Amalia.


Each character played their roles very well.  Opening the opera is Carlo singing about wanting to be with his beloved  and he sends a letter to his father asking forgiveness for keeping company with thieves when he receives a letter from Francesco deceiving him by telling him he will be imprisoned if he returns to his homeland.  Carlo then decides to accept the leadership role with his companions.  Russell Thomas has a powerful voice that is so strong that it cuts right through the entire orchestra.  He certainly is a powerful force!


Francesco convinces his servant Arminio to disguise himself as a soldier and to deceive the innocent and devoted Amalia that her beloved is dead.  She is distraught.  Later Arminio confesses his deception when he sees Amalia praying at the tomb of Count Massimiliano, Carlo's father.  Francesco, played by Scott Hendricks begins his performance well, but in the end of his performance in Act IV he clearly is powerful in his characterization of Francesco seeking absolution from a priest.  His emotions truly are depicted by his powerful vocal lines and his gestures.


The darling of the opera is clearly Amalia.  Lisette Oropesa not only has a powerful, pure vocal tone, but she has the ability to massage the pitches with finesse making her pianissimo tones so sweet that it melted the heart of the audience.  Her facial expressions are so pure and in character that it seems as if she really is desperately in love with a fallen man whom she deeply loves.  Her portrayal was magnificent!  I certainly hope opera lovers in the Washington area get to see much more of her!  She is amazing.


In true Italian fashion the opera ends in tragic death.  But the acting was very well done.  Even though it is a concert version of the opera, the audience with the assistance of the overhead libretto supertitles learn the story in the event they have not had time to read the synopsis of the opera from the program.


I strongly recommend any Washington D. C. native who loves opera to go to a performance of the Washington Concert Opera.  The quality of the singers and the gorgeous blending of the orchestra is of excellent quality.


Linda Pellegrino




Artist Biographies courtesy of Washington Concert Opera.





Russell Thomas


A native of Miami, Tenor Russell Thomas is quickly establishing himself as one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene, most recently as the First-Prize winner of the prestigious “Viñas Competition” in Barcelona (First Prize, Audience Favorite and Best Tenor) and at the “Competizione dell’Opera” in Dresden.

Russell Thomas’ 2012-2013 season began with the recording and a concert of Donizetti’s Belisario for Opera Rara in London, followed by the artist’s role debut in the title-role of Mozart’s La Clemenza Di Tito at the Metropolitan Opera. Later in the season, Mr. Thomas returned to the Los Angeles Philharmonic to reprise his stunning Lazarus in John Adams’ The Gospel According To The Other Mary, this time in performances staged by Peter Sellars, which will also be seen in London, Lucerne, Paris and New York. 

He recently concluded his 2012-2013 season with an acclaimed debut at the Royal Opera as Adorno in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.  Of his Covent Garden performance, Opera Britannia proclaimed “Even more exciting was the debut of the American tenor, Russell Thomas as Gabriele Adorno.  Possessing of a truly thrilling voice, Thomas is a really exciting addition to the all too small roster of Verdian tenors.”

An alumnus of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program of the Metropolitan Opera, Russell Thomas was also a member of Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, a Roger R. Hinkley artist at the Florida Grand Opera, a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of St Louis, an apprentice at the Sarasota Opera and was proud to take part in the 2005 and 2006 Marlboro Music Festivals.


Hao Jiang Tian






Bass opera singer Hao Jiang Tian is world renowned as one of today’s most talented basso cantantes. He has sung over 1,300 performances of 40 operatic roles worldwide since his Metropolitan Opera debut during the 1991/92 season.  Since then, Mr. Tian has appeared at the Met for 19 years, in close to 30 operas. He has been highly praised for his appearances in international theaters including the Berlin State Opera, Teatro Comunale in Florence, and Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa.  He has performed in opera houses around the world in France, Spain, Holland, Portugal, Chile, Japan, and China.  He has won critical acclaim for astounding performance in some of the greatest roles written for bass, including Philip II in Don Carlos, Procisa in I Vespri Siciliani, and Méphistophélès in Faust.  He first held a variety of supporting roles with Opera Colorado, most notably in an Aspen production of Verdi’s Falstafffeaturing an almost all-Asian cast.

Mr. Tian is the winner of the several competitions, including the Sullivan Foundation Voice Competition the San Francisco Opera Competition.  In 1993, he received worldwide recognition for his role opposite Luciano Pavarotti in Verdi’s Lombardi.  He is the recipient of many awards, including the Rosa Ponselle International Competition for the Vocal Arts Award in 1987, as well as the 1998 winner of the Bel Canto Foundation Voice Competition.

Mr. Tian published a memoir in 2008, entitled ‘Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met’, in which he describes his inspiring, long journey from the Cultural Revolution in China to New York’s premier opera house.  He is one of the very few Western opera singers to come out of China, and was the first Chinese to sing Verdi in Italy and to appear in Beethoven’s Fidelio in Germany.



Lisette Oropesa





Lisette Oropesa makes her Washington Concert Opera debut as Amalia in I masnadieri.  Ms. Oropesa is a Cuban American operatic soprano who was raised in Baton Rouge, where she studied at Louisiana State University.  She was a winner in the National Council Grand Finals Concert at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005.  From there, she became part of the Lindemann Young Artists Development Program until 2008.  Ms. Oropesa made her Met debut in a small role in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Idomeneo in 2006, and went on to sing the part of First Lay-Sister in Suor Angelica.

In 2012,  Ms. Oropesa was awarded the title of Olson Artist in the Florida Grand Opera.  That same year, she received the Musique et Vin Young Talent Award.  She has been inducted into the Opera Hall of Fame at Lousiana State University, her alma mater, in 2011.  In 2007-2008, Ms. Oropesa won countless awards including the Sullivan Foundation Award, George London Award, and the First Place award at the Licia Albanese Puccini Competition.  She won the Zarzuela award at the renowned Operalia International Opera Competition in 2007.

Ms. Oropesa is an artist with a “magnetic” stage presence, and an “attractively silky, flexible timbre” (New York Times).  Garnering recognition as 


Scott Hendricks






Texan Scott Hendricks has emerged as one of today’s most compelling and versatile baritones.  From Monteverdi to Schreker, Mozart to Debussy and Puccini to modern-day composers, Hendricks has always maintained a diverse operatic diary and is now establishing himself as an important artist in the operas of Verdi, Puccini and Wagner.

On the international opera stage, Hendricks has performed the title role of Rigoletto and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor (Houston Grand Opera); Scarpia in Tosca (Opéra National de Paris, Washington National Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich); Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (Washington National Opera with Plàcido Domingo); Jochanaan in Salome (La Monnaie, Brussels); Amonasro in Aida and Iago in Otello (Canadian Opera Company); Count di Luna in Il Trovatore (La Monnaie); Marcello in La Bohème (San Francisco Opera); the title role of Macbeth (La Monnaie), which received Opernwelt’s production of the year award; the title role of Król Roger (Gran Teatre de Liceu and Opéra National de Paris); The 

 


The Marriage of Figaro at George Mason Center for the Arts on Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The halls of the Center for the Arts rang with beautiful vocal melodies and roaring laughter as the Virginia Opera presented their production of The Marriage of Figaro on Friday, April 19, 2013.  There will be another production of the Marriage of Figaro on Sunday, at 2 p.m. at the Center for the Arts. 

This delightful production begins the opera with a joyfully devilish Cherubino flitting across the stage, followed by a male and female Harlequin, who watch the comedy of the opera during scenes in the opera.  These Harlequins represent the spirits of comedy and were standing behind the main opera singers up stage and they distracted from the main opera characters somewhat, since the audiences eyes followed their movement.  The Harlequins are moving while the singers are still and singing their scenes, so our attention is drawn away from the central characters of the opera.

The overture with its delightful musical motive (concise musical phrase) was described by the pre-event lecturer as a thrust and perry, which are moves used in fencing where a person moves forward to thrust and then stands back to perry defensibly against his opponent; in musical terms it means there is a forward musical phrase followed by a regressive descendsion of musical notes.  This three-note musical motive gives the audience a feeling of the upcoming frivolity.

The Director is trying to bring forth the following ideas in the opera:  1.  the idea of distain of the aristocracy by the servant class which is a prominent theme in a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and 2.  the idea that the French Revolution was inspired by this theme.  In fact when Charles II came back to his throne, it was only by invitation and agreement to restrict the aristocracy's power.

The French playwright Beaumarchais wrote an earlier play The Barber of Seville which made a successful transition to opera in a version by Paisiello. Later on Gioachino Rossinni wrote an opera buffa in two acts with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's Le Barbier de Seville (1775), which was originally an opera comique, also called opera buffa, or comic opera.  Although Beaumarchais's Marriage of Figaro was at first banned in Vienna because of its licentiousness, Mozart's librettist managed to get official approval for an operatic version which eventually achieved great success.

The Director uses obvious symbolism to weave his theme of rebellion against the aristocratic class.  One symbols is a woman in the opera chorus shown knitting when the village girls come in.  She is a character taken from the Tale of Two Cities, Madame Thérèse Defarge, a primary enemy of the aristocracy who vowed revenge against the aristocracy for the deaths of her sister, brother, and father. She is wearing the symbol of the French Revolution the tri-color using the red, white and blue colors of the French flag of today.  In the opera, as well as the novel, she knits a code in a pattern known only to her and her allies, listing all of the members of the Marquis or Monseigneur St. Evrémonde family who murdered her sister, brother, and father.  She knitted their names in code, as a message to her allies of who to hunt down to be slain on a guillotine. At the end of the opera, the woman representing Madame Defarge holds another symbol of rebellion the guillotine in her hand moving the blade down symbolizing the beheading of her enemies.  The only problem with the interesting concept of comparing the theme of rebellion against the aristocracy in the opera The Marriage of Figaro to the French Revolution is the fact that the opera is set in Seville, Spain and not in France.  However, the directorial choice of using a puppy in the bedroom scene of Countess Almaviva was cute and it fit well, since many aristocrats had dogs as pets. 

All of the soloists were in excellent voice, as well as the chorus.  Katherine Whyte has a full-bodied rich tone in her vibrato and her acting in her role as the Countess Almaviva was excellent.  She showed her true love for the count, while remaining dignified in spite of his betrayal to her.  Aaron St. Clair Nicholson who played the Count shows the appropriate arrogance and distain for others as his selfish ways are revealed.  Even his confession at the end is insincere, but he is just like we are many times, wanting to be better but in the end doing what is easy and submitting to our own selfish desires.  In this way the play is more than just a battle between the classes, but it reveals to us some of our own faults, which are evident in the count.  Ann-Carolyn Bird who played Susanna soared with her delightful vocal lines, and pleased the audience continuously in her arias.  Matthew Burns who sang the role of Figaro did an excellent job of appearing to be a clueless man who had no clue in the beginning of the opera of the devious Count Almaviva’s intensions to bed Susanna.

The Marriage of Figaro deals with characters that are life-like.  They realize only too late the faults that they have and how these faults are not good for them.  The count is a very contradictory character saying he refuses his feudal rights yet he continues to chase Susanna, seeking to bed her.  In some ways although the count is an aristocrat, he is very much like all of us.  How often do we actually do the very thing that we later regret doing?  This perspective makes the count seem a little more sympathetic and less self-centered.  The use of comedy also lightens the theme in the opera; perhaps it was Mozart's use of humor along with light-hearted melodies that allowed him to present an opera with such a controversial theme during his era. The Countess forgives her husband although his confession is not truly genuine.  At the end of the opera the theme of forgiveness is quickly forgotten, which shows us how we ourselves quickly forget the lessons of forgiving one another.

This is one of the funniest versions of The Marriage of Figaro I have ever seen.  It was sung and acted to delightful perfection.  It is truly a “must see” for this weekend.

 

 

 


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