Opera at Grant Park Music Festival
August 14, 2011
by Salvatore Calomino, Opera Today
For its seventh program of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Music
Festival presented concert ensembles performed by members of the Ryan
Opera Center of Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Carlos Kalmar conducted the Grant Park Orchestra in selections by Mozart, Donizetti, and Rossini. Commentary was provided by Jack Zimmerman as narrator.
The first selection was Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, or The Impresario. Since this one-act piece allows for both solo and ensemble singing by the four soloists, it proved to be an appropriate introduction to the evening. The rival sopranos Madame Goldentrill and Miss Silverpeal were sung, respectively, by Kiri Deonarine and Emily Birsan. Mr. Angel the Impresario and Mr. Bluff were sung by Bernard Holcomb and Joseph Lim. After settling into the overture Kalmar encouraged orchestral colors especially in the woodwinds, so that the concept of subsequent vocal pieces was truly prefigured. Mr. Zimmerman’s versified summaries and comments propelled the piece toward the two arias sung by the sopranos. As Mme. Goldentrill Ms. Deonarine projected a secure vocal technique with an especially vivid effect on “Du kannst gewiss nich treulos sein” (“Surely you cannot be unfaithful”). Her rapid passagework was equally accomplished with top notes securely placed. Ms. Birsan sang with matching confidence yet perhaps with a shade more volume than needed in some of the rising lines. In the following trio both women overwhelmed Mr. Holcomb’s character as he tried to settle their dispute. Here Ms. Deonarine’s rise to high notes on the word “Adagio” showed a sound technique and steady control of pitch. The entry of Mr. Bluff and the accompanying final ensemble provided opportunities for the four soloists to extend their pleas. Mr. Lim’s polished sense of line and his musical play on Buff and O showed him to be a worthy partner in the vocal dispute that ends with “Künstler müssen freilich streben” (“Artists must always strive”).
The second selection of the evening, Act Two of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, featured excellent contributions by Jennifer Jakob as Norina, Paul La Rosa as Malatesta, and David Govertsen as Don Pasquale. At the start of the act René Barbera made a worthy showpiece of the nephew’s aria, “Povero Ernesto!” (“Poor Ernesto!”). His seamless range, high notes, and occasional use of piano (e.g. in “nè frapposti monti e mar” [“nor seas and mountains in between”]) were a welcome contribution to the overall shape of the aria. The singing of bass-baritone David Govertsen in the role of Don Pasquale, with an impressive bel canto technique extending to his lowest range, provided consistent stylish character to the title role. The Norina of Ms. Jakob was alternately understated and petulant, as expected in her variable persona, throughout the act. Her diction was accurate and she shaded her voice subtlety on words such as giovane (“young woman”) to emphasize the word’s import. In bel canto ensembles and in her individual decoration Ms. Jakob gave the impression of inhabiting the role comfortably. Mr. La Rosa’s sonorous baritone was an equally welcome voice in ensembles yet also in the delivery of individual parts in recitative. The line “ … un matrimonio in regula a stringere si va” (“a lawful marriage will herewith be contracted”) was released with deeply felt legato, while La Rosa launched with skilled decoration into the part “Ah! Figliuol, non mi far scene” (“Oh, my son, don’t make a scene”).
In the final selection, Act Two of Rossini’s La cenerentola, Emily Fons gave an exceptional performance as Angelina, the Cinderella of the title. Don Magnifico, sung here with rapid understatement by Evan Boyer, introduced in the first scene the continuing domestic and royal misunderstandings. In the following scene the remaining principals were introduced. James Kryschak sang Don Ramiro’s aria with the expected poise of a Rossini tenor, although some of the top notes were overly loud. Paul Scholten’s approach to Dandini in solo pieces and his duet with Don Magnifico was tasteful in his buffo lines and seamless in his well enunciated runs. Mr. Govertsen’s Alidoro made a strong impression with the hope for an assumption of the complete role in the future. It is in the fourth and fifth scenes and in the finale to Act Two that the mezzo role of Angelina truly rises to vocal splendor. Ms. Fons displayed a mature and focused line in her wistful rendering of “Una volta c’era un re” (“Once upon a time there was a king”). In the following scene of recognition, with identities and affections finally sorted out, the sextet was noteworthy for individual and ensemble contributions. For the finale, the title character’s arias “Nacqui all’ affanno” and “Non più mesta” were, in the memorable performance of Ms. Fons, models of bel canto singing recalling an earlier time. In the first aria she introduced appropriate decoration on “la sorte mia” (“my lot”) and ended the line on “cangiò” (“has changed”) with an exquisite trill. Several of the escape tones and other fitting ornamentation included in her polished rendition of “Non più mesta” enhanced a performance of future great promise.