Wednesday, July 15, 2015

La Favorite at Caramoor

I was happy on Saturday evening to venture up to Katonah, NY, for another visit to Caramoor. This was my third French opera by an Italian composer written for the Paris Opera presented by Caramoor: La Favorite, now known primarily in its Italian version, La Favorita.

Clémentine Margaine
The story is typical opera fare: Fernand (Fernando), a monk, wants to leave his monastery to experience life. He meets Léonore (Leonora) and experiences life in a big way. Opera things happen, as they say, and he learns on their wedding day that Léonore has been the king's "favorite"--a nice way to say his mistress. He returns to the monastery. Léonore waits a few years, until she's about to die, to follow him there and die in his arms. Although very popular for decades after its introduction in 1840, La Favorite subsequently fell out of favor. In our own time is usually only revived when there is a special singer for Léonore.

There was a very special singer for Léonore on Saturday night, in the person of Clémentine Margaine. A young French mezzo on the rise, this Léonore impressed with her sound, her commitment to the character and the text, and her beautiful yellow dress in the first half. (Her tasteful black and white number in the second half was also very nice.) Léonore's aria "O mon Fernand" ("O mio Fernando") left one breathless. Ms. Margaine's bio lists an impressive string of venues for her Carmen--Berlin, Munich, Montreal, and Dallas, as well as future engagements in Paris, at the Chicago Lyric, and at the Metropolitan Opera.

Santiago Ballerini
It was a fine night for singing all around. Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini, another young singer on the rise, sang Fernand with passion and beautiful tone throughout. Although I consider his voice a little light for the role, he sang skillfully and with ever increasing sensitivity throughout the night. His Act III aria "Ange si pur" ("Spirto gentil") was a heartbreaking delight.

Baritone Stephen Powell impressed us at Caramoor in 2013 with his Rodrigue in Don Carlos, and impressed us again with his highly skilled singing and committed interpretation of Alphonse, the king with whom Léonore has been on friendly terms. Bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs was the reliable, resonant, musically sensitive singer we've come to know and love as Balthazar, the Prior of Fernand's monastery.

Caramoor Bel Canto Young artists SungWook Kim and Isabella Gaudi deserve mention for their sidekick roles,  and the chorus comprised of Bel Canto Young Artists and apprentice artists also deserves praise. The Orchestra of St. Luke's, under Maestro Will Crutchfield, were also as reliable and musical as ever.

I am very sorry that Saturday night was the only performance of La Favorite. Were there a second performance, I'd happily recommend seeing it.

No comments: