Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lucrezia Borgia at Caramoor

As I have many times in past years, I ventured up to Katonah, NY, for a beautiful evening of singing at Caramoor's Summer Music Festival. You will recall my fondness for this venue, for the beautiful surroundings and the opportunity to hear fresh, young talent alongside more accomplished professionals. The work that Will Crutchfield, Director of Opera at Caramoor, and his team do is to be commended.

Will Crutchfield
On Saturday, July 12, the main event was Mr. Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, (libretto by Mr. Felice Romani, based on Mr. Victor Hugo's play, Lucrèce Borgia). As usual, there was so much more than that one opera on offer! I like to arrive early and hear the afternoon lectures and concerts of apprentices and young artists, and once again I was quite happy I did. The first sung program was called "Bel canto a due", which has become a popular series of young artists singing, as you might imagine, bel canto duets. Mr. Crutchfield explained that these are wonderful duets not only for their beauty but also for the learning opportunities in singing such intricate music with a partner. Another program showcased other musical settings of Victor Hugo's verse, including Mr. Liszt's familiar "Oh! quand je dors" and an adorable duet from Mr. Mendelssohn's setting of Ruy Blas. All of the afternoon's singing was quite good, and I regret that I can't name everyone who impressed me. Bass-baritone Joseph Charles Beutel continues to dazzle with his singing, his acting, and his youthful looks. Hsin-Mei Tracy Chang gave a lovely and tender performance of Mr. Gounod's setting of "Sérénade", and Yunnie Park sang a shimmering "Oh! quand je dors". Among the other singers I wish to name were soprano Elise Brancheau, mezzo Desiree Maira, tenor Scott Brunscheen, and baritone Joel Herold. Again, I can't name everyone, but rest assured there was not a dud in the bunch on Saturday afternoon!

Angela Meade
Photo:  Devon Cass
On to the main event! Mr. Donizetti's score is full of all the melody, the fioritura, the drama that we have come to expect from his works. Interestingly, Mr. Crutchfield chose to perform the 1833 version on Saturday night, but will perform the 1840 version, which follows Mr. Hugo's play more closely by replacing the soprano's final solo scene with a finale for the soprano and tenor, on July 18.

As Lucrezia, Angela Meade gave us all that we know of her--smooth line, beautiful tone, musically expressive presentation--and added a passion I haven't seen. I am happy to say the young lady, still in her 30s, is growing artistically. Christophoros Stamboglis, who wowed us last year in Caramoor's Don Carlo, gave us a passionate and vengeful Alfonso D'Este, Duke of Ferrara and Lucrezia's husband. Always singing beautifully while still portraying the many emotions of the Duke, Mr. Stamboglis was a highlight of this production.

Michele Angelini
Photo:  Rebecca Fay
Tenor Michele Angelini has graced these pages before, and I must say I can only praise his performance as Gennaro, Lucrezia's illegitimate son. He is making quite a name for himself in the high, florid bel canto repertoire, and while I see the role of Gennaro as perhaps a bit beefier than the Elvinos and Lindoros for which Mr. Angelini has garnered much praise, he handled it with great ease. As Orsini, close friend of Gennaro, Tamara Mumford gave a dazzling performance. Looking both dashing and beautiful, and singing with a luxurious tone and great ease, Ms. Mumford earned the roars of approval she received at the curtain call.

The smaller roles were sung quite ably by Caramoor young artists and apprentices. Standouts include Mr. Beutel, of course, as an aide to Lucrezia, and tenor Cameron Schutza, whose featured role as Rustighella, one of the Duke's henchmen, gave him lots of stage time. As always, the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Will Crutchfield gave a stellar performance of the demanding score, beautifully paced, shaped and nuanced.

No comments: