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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Opera Review: A Grand Night for Singing

The 2012 Richard Tucker Gala.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Made in Brooklyn: opera tenor Richard Tucker.
The 2012 Richard Tucker Gala was held Sunday night.
Image © 1997 The United States Postal Service.
The 2012 Richard Tucker Gala was held this Sunday night at Avery Fisher Hall. The annual showcase for the philanthropic foundation named after the late, great opera tenor is always an important night in the opera season. This year, singers, industry people and opera lovers heard this year's Tucker Prize winner, soprano Ailyn Pérez in a program that put a heavy emphasis on the music of Verdi.

The Tucker Gala is a celebration of singing, honoring both the memory of the late Brooklyn-born tenor. The Tucker Foundation provides support and a showcase for young talent that is about to make a splash on the opera stages of the world. This year's concert also featured appearances from singers currently gracing the stage of the Met: baritones Gerald Finley and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, mezzo Olga Borodina and tenor Marcello Giordani.

Ms. Pérez is the first Tucker winner who happens to be married to a past winner--tenor Stephen Costello. (He won in 2009.) She opened the concert with a fiesty performance of Manon's gavotte, easily adding the difficult ornamentation in the repeated section and producing a high, clear tone above the stave.

In the most significant moment of the two-hour concert, the singers performed "Suzel, buon di," the famous "Cherry Duet" from Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz.. In doing so, Mr. Costello and Ms. Pérez may have staked their claim as opera's new "love couple," potential box office successors to the team of Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. They upheld the tradition of this great, underrated duet, singing the roles of the wealthy landowner and his young bride-to-be with tender sweetness.

Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey was an impressive presence, holding his own as Ezio opposite the Attila of bass Ildar Abdrazakov, and confronting the impressive soprao Liudmyla Monastyrska in a series of excerpts from the first act of Verdi's Macbeth. Ms. Monastyrska is the Lady M. that New Yorkers may be anticipating, with a strong tonal column and magnetic stage presece.

Another member of a famous operatic couple is Uruguayan bass Erwin Schott. (His partner is Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.) Mr. Schrott clearly relished singing "Ave, Signor" from Boito's Mefistofele, sweeping onstage, shrugging into a black leather coat and embodying the Devil with both voice and eyes. (He would be ideal in an opera that is due for a New York revival.) In the second half, he sang the least well-known work on the program, Rojo Tango by composer Pablo Ziegler with style and inflection.

In addition to hits from Wagner (the Song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser sung by Mr. Hvorostovsky) and more Verdi (the chorus "Va, pensiero" as sung by the New York Choral Society) this show featured excerpts from unfamiliar operas. The most compelling of these: "Zachem ty?" from The Tsar's Bride, a rarity by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. sung by Ms. Borodina and Mr. Hvorostovsky and mezzo Jamie Barton's performance of "O mon Fernand" from Donizetti's La Favorite.

The concert ended with a reunion of Ms. Pérez and Mr. Costello in an urgent performance of the Act II finale from La Traviata. Thanks to these capable artists (and Mr. Kelsey as the elder Germont) the trappings of the concert setting faded and listeners were drawn into the powerful confrontation. As an encore, the company traveled back to Act I to sing the Brindisi. No little red dress was required.

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