Reviews of Opera from around the World: United States

By Richard Covello, and others | Opera Canada, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Reviews of Opera from around the World: United States


Richard Covello, and others, Opera Canada


CHICAGO

LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO OPENED ITS CURRENT season, the last under Ardis Krainik's management, with a spectacularly well-sung and conducted Don Carlo of Verdi. Daniele Gatti had the orchestra well under control, with pacing that was brisk enough to keep the four-act Italian version to just four hours but without rushing the singers.

The largest ovations went to Dolora Zajick (Eboli) and Samuel Ramey (Philip), both of whom were dazzling. The pure-voiced Elisabetta of Carol Vaness also merited an ovation that the conductor somehow denied her, perhaps because the evening was drawing to a close. Michael Sylvester coped admirably in the title role, with his firm, bright timbre. True, he missed the top note in the auto-da-fe confrontation with Philip, but so did Pavarotti. The Rodrigo of Vladimir Chernov was lovely, though not large in voice. Eric Halfvarson demonstrated his versatility. Perfect in comedy, he was also a convincingly frightening Inquisitor.

Despite the great singing, this Carlo remained, as it was when new in 1989, a boring production. Sonja Frisell's staging was serviceable, but Gianni Quaranta's four-square sets were dull.

COOPERSTOWN

THE OPERAS CHOSEN FOR GLIMMERGLASS Opera's 10th season were as enterprising as ever: Jack Beeson's Lizzie Borden, Donizetti's Don Pasquale, Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera and Cavalli's La Calisto.

Beeson's musical drama is a tightly drawn piece, thanks to a strong libretto from Kenward Elmslie. The music is neo-Romantic, its more strongly atonal sections reserved for the horrors of Lizzie's psychological distress leading to the murder of her stepmother and father. The cast certainly delivered the dramatic goods, with the confrontations between Phyllis Pancella's Lizzie and Sheri Greenawald's stepmother, Abigail, being the central points of tension. Kelly Anderson perfectly conveyed the role of the skinflint, fastidious father, Andrew, while Margaret Lloyd was delicate and vulnerable as Margret, Lizzie's sister.

Stewart Robertson led the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra on opening night in a powerful rendering of this difficult score, while director Rhoda Levine, set designer John Conklin and costume designer Constance Hoffman between them created a superbly austere ambiance for the unfolding of this dark psychological music drama.

Although Don Pasquale is regarded as one of Donizetti's most successful comic operas, it too has its darker side. It was indicative of Leon Major's empathetic direction that he captured this perfectly. His underlying concept--that Pasquale resonates with commedia associations and the 17th-century world of Moliere--made for excellent theatre. Kevin Glavin, a delightful Pasquale throughout, became overwhelmed by an almost unutterable sadness as Laura Claycomb's Norina suddenly withdrew, realizing her slap had taken things too far.

Also contributing in every way to this excellent production was conductor Joseph Rescigno and the orchestra; they brought a wonderful sparkle to the score, with Rescigno happily reinstating most of the cuts frequently made.

Similar success greeted Simon Callow's direction of La Calisto in probably the closest we shall ever get to the original 1650s version, thanks to the researches of conductor Jane Glover. With her small baroque orchestra of string players, she provided a perfect accompaniment for that delicate combination of naughtiness and poignancy with which Cavalli and librettist Giovanni Faustino invested the characters of these gods, goddesses, nymphs and satyrs.

It is a tribute to Callow's production that he caught all the sexual and emotional nuances inherent in the opera, and portrayed them with humor and taste. Central was the pure and beautiful voice of Lisa Saffer's Calisto, while Christine Abrahams was equally convincing in her dual role of the upright Diana and the lascivious Giove-in-disguise.

Bernard Deletre (Giove himself) didn't have much to do, but he did bring a sense of deep regret to his role. …

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