Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Don Carlo presented by Martha Cardona Theater

No one should be surprised to know I am a very big supporter of opera performed by young professionals.  There is a wide range bubbling below the surface of what we see in the mainstream classical music press, ranging in experience level from true beginners who deserve a chance to be heard to those with significant performing experience in regional opera companies. On Tuesday, May 27, I was privileged to witness a concert featuring some of these highly experienced young professionals in a concert of Don Carlo excerpts presented by the Martha Cardona Theater at the Opera America Center. (The concert was billed as Don Carlo in concert, which was not accurate.)

Because I wasn't feeling well, I stayed home and watched the concert on their live streaming feed, which I believe is an Opera America offering, an option when one rents the hall. It was very much like being there, while able to also tweet and text message more freely with others witnessing the concert in the same manner.

First off were teasers for upcoming concerts.  Michele Trovato, whom I'm praised in these pages often, gave us a lovely, affecting rendition of Signore ascolto from Mr. Puccini's Turandot. As usual, one wants to hear more of Ms. Trovato, and will, when Mr. Cardona presents Turandot on June 17.  We also heard Zhanna Alkhazova in the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, which Mr. Cardona intends to present June 28.  One almost wished for a third teaser.

The singing of the Don Carlo principals was all as one expected--on a very high professional level, but needing a little further polish to assure the singers a place among the stars, and also not as sure-footed as if they had all been off book.

Barihunk Lee Poulis
Fort Worth Opera's
Pearl Fishers
(Yes, there were fully
clothed pictures,
but why?)
I liked Elisabeth Stevens as Elisabetta. A little more polish and involvement would have made her performance spectacular, but she was quite fine given the concert setting.  Vocally, I'd compare her to some very good sopranos with bigger names.

Domenick Rodriguez as Don Carlo. This seems exactly the right sort of engagement for Mr. Rodriguez. From his bio, one assumes he has recently made the switch from lighter tenor repertoire to heavier rep like Don Carlo, so pacing and vocal weight issues that seemed evident in his first scene seemed to have been better negotiated in later scenes. As I've said before of other singers, I'd like to hear his fifth Don Carlo and his tenth, to see how they compare to this valiant offering.

Krysty Swann sang Eboli with great assurance and somewhat dark and heavy tone. Matthew Curran, whom I have also praised in these pages before, provided just the right depth of tone and manner for Filippo II.   Lee Poulis was very strong as Rodrigo.  He really was among the finest singers in the cast.

The Martha Cardona Theater was created in 2009 with a mission of bringing opera to a wider audience. I encourage people to see and hear opera at this level as often as they can. In addition to hearing hit-parade operas (which I never tire of, unlike certain other opera writers), you never know when you might hear a rising singer destined for the major opera houses of the world.

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