Sunday, December 30, 2007

To Do List: (1) Get stabbed at a Masked Ball, (2) Sing a long aria, (3) Then die

Un Ballo in Maschera
by Giuseppe Verdi

Amelia- Michele Crider
Gustavo- Salvatore Licitra
Anckarstrom (Renato)- Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Ulrica- Stephanie Blythe
Oscar- Kathleen Kim
Ribbing (Samuel)- Hao Jiang Tian
de Horn (Tom)- Andrew Gangestad
Conductor- Gianandrea Noseda

With a production that is nearly 20 years old it's usually difficult to add freshness to it. However, when you have three great, world class singers singing in one place at the same time, it does add a sort of lightness and vivacity to an old set.
The three real stars of the evening sadly didn't include the soprano, which is usually the case. Michele Crider held her own, and with her huge voice it's hard to forget her, but she was slightly out done by her peers despite her soaring second act aria and touching portrayal of the distraught Amelia. It's a little something called "star power" that just didn't shine through. Of course, I'm thoroughly spoiled by sopranos such as Aprile Millo and Birgit Nilsson who can not be outdone in this role. Salvatore Licitra, who plays Amelia's "lover", is a different story. He had a magnificent presence and his voice crystal clear, which makes him one of the three real stars of the evening. By some confusing and unimportant turn of events my mother ended up in the Family Circle Standing Room for the first act. She came down at intermission and the first thing she said was "Oh my gosh, you can hear every syllable the tenor sings all the way up there!" And every high note, too. Every wonderful high note that came almost effortlessly and filled the house with sound.
Stephanie Blythe is another singer that can fill the house with sound. I could hardly believe the size of her voice! Her low notes were so exciting and I couldn't stop myself from whispering "Ooooo yes, chest voice!" The curtain opened on her lair and you knew immediately which one was the power horse mezzo! It's called star power, it's called stage presence, call it what ever you like, but Stephanie Blythe had it! She was chilling as the fortune-teller and her singing hardly required her to open her mouth! She'd open it a crack and you could hear her voice from the nose bleed seats!
My personal favorite highlight of the entire evening was Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Renato (You say potato-or Anckerstrom- and I say Renato) or, more specifically, his "Eri tu." I was slightly surprised because his voice was not as large in the house as I imagined it. Or maybe I was imagining it wasn't big? Surrounded by all those huge voices maybe it just sounded small. I'm convinced that he only took one breath each act and man he could hold those notes forever! My mother and I were rather upset that this wasn't such a "romantic" role because this guy really deserves it. It's sort of like "Well, what's the soprano doing with the other guy if she can have him? Oh well... maybe I can have him instead?" With a baritone who is so extremely handsome, it's hard to believe that he could become so unlikeable in the end. But that's how the opera goes, the baritones never win. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was so sinister yet calm as Renato, it was almost scary. When he discovered that Amelia was...well... Amelia in the second act he sings "Ameeeeeeeeliaaaaa!" Oh my GOODNESS did it sound EVIL. And yet... it was SO GORGEOUS. Evil has never looked or sounded so good. Speaking of sounding good, I waited the entire performance for "Eri tu" and was not disappointed. It's such a wonderful aria and Dmitri pulls it off so so SO well. =)
Kathleen Kim as Oscar was a dream. She's so cute and light. She flies all over the stage and her voice is very ring-y. She got better as the night went on and by the end of the evening she proved herself to be a wonderful singer-actress who I would definitely like to see more often.
One note on the conducting... I felt that some arias, particularly Oscar's two little arias and "Di tu se fedele", were taken a little too slowly. They're both supposed to be light, fluffy arias and are not supposed to be dragged out. The singers tried to sing as slowly as Maestro Noseda was conducting, but I'm sure it was a tad difficult.
Over all, great show. I left with little wings on my heals and I sighed all the way home, hoping to see more performances that were that exciting.

Happy Listening!!! =) (Sorry this was so long! So many feelings for one performance!)

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