Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In 'Two Worlds,' Rare Talents Unite

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In 'Two Worlds,' Rare Talents Unite

Article excerpt


Since arriving 10 years ago, director Iain Webb has often said the most valuable thing he brought to the Sarasota Ballet was his address book of British colleagues and friends who have helped to foster the company's commissions and bolster its repertoire. This weekend, it was the contacts of executive director Joe Volpe, former general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, that paved the way for a glitzy gala fundraiser at the Sarasota Opera House billed as "A Celebration of Two Worlds: Music and Dance."

On the music side, that included former Met star Frederica von Stade, with composer Jake Heggie on the piano; on the dance side, American Ballet Theatre principals Marcello Gomes, Gillian Murphy and Daniil Simkin and Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga shared the stage with 10 dancers from the Sarasota Ballet, who performed a reprise of Ricardo Graziano's "In a State of Weightlessness," which premiered at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 2015.

A first glance at the program gave the impression that von Stade, listed under 17 song titles, would dominate the evening (not to mention make the patrons who had committed up to $750 for a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton following the performance wait a good long while for their suppers). But in fact, most of what the mezzo-soprano performed were song snippets of far less than a minute that often ended somewhat awkwardly.

In the first of three outfits -- a vivid red pantsuit and heels, a voluminous cross between a dressing gown and a choir robe and a long purple jacket over shiny baggy pants -- von Stade began with 15 seconds of "I am Rose" (lyrics by Gertrude Stein) that segued into 30 seconds of an Edith Piaf-like "La Vie en Rose" in French. The morsels that followed ranged from arias, many in French ("Me voici dans son boudoir" from Mignon; "Voi che sapete" from Le Nozze di Figaro) to more plebian tunes ("Tout Gai!"; "Why do they shut me out of Heaven?").

Von Stade's is now a more mature voice -- she revealed that "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" was the aria she'd used to audition in 1969 -- and much of the coquettish material she sang at the start seemed inappropriately youthful. …

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