Kaptainis, Arthur, Opera Canada
Anyone surprised by the selection of Puccini's darkhorse, La fanciulla del West, as the opening production of L'Opéra de Montréal season got another jolt on Sept. 20: the last-minute replacement in the tide role of the ailing American soprano Susan Patterson by an unknown Russian, Irina Rindzuner. Call the evening a doubly unexpected triumph.
The new production by Thaddeus Strassberger, an American making his OdeM debut, consisted of mine shafts, rail detritus and rugged machinery radier than the conventional Gunsmoke-inspired set most people expect. The Polka Saloon, an outdoor facility with planks on oil cans, seemed a tad incommodious, as did Minnie's cabin, to all appearances a part of the mine.
All the same, painterly backdrops of mountains and sky furnished some atmosphere, as did the score, plush with impressionistic clusters as well as the sweeping melodies for which the composer is beloved. And loving is perhaps the best word to describe the work of conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, making her OdM debut. She and the Orchestre Métropolitain got a huge ovation, fully deserved.
But back to Rindzuner. Her acting, on virtually no rehearsal, was understandably basic, but somehow she personified the innocent-but-resourceful girl of the tide, and her voice had both brilliance in the stratosphere and depth through the interludes of low-register storytelling. Most important, she filled the big Salle Wilfrid Pelletier with ease.
She had a handsome-sounding Dick Johnson in the Australian tenor Julian Gavin, who is also a fair actor, although Luis Ludesma had a deeper role to play as Sheriff Jack Ranee. This Mexican baritone combined a dark voice with stormy looks, both perfectly suited to the part. Miners took their roles well, even though the Italian libretto remains hard to reconcile with the circumstances. Hardbitten '49-ers are not supposed to miss their mommies. Nevertheless, the …
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Publication information: Article title: Montreal. Contributors: Kaptainis, Arthur - Author. Magazine title: Opera Canada. Volume: 49. Issue: 5 Publication date: December/January 2008. Page number: 32+. © 1997 Opera Canada Publications. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.