Cabell and Thomas Prove a Charismatic Operatic Duo at Grant Park

July 26, 2009

Opera in general and Cabell in particular were Saturday's expected pleasures. But the night also included the thrill of discovering a vibrant new talent, tenor Russell Thomas, a young man with a confident, stirring voice.

The pleasures were both expected and unexpected at the Grant Park Music Festival Saturday night.

As a prelude to the city’s annual Venetian Night celebration downtown, the festival offered an evening of opera excerpts. Chicago’s huge cadre of opera lovers always relish a night at the opera, whether indoors at the venerable Civic Opera House or under the open skies at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, the music festival’s home base.

Saturday’s audience also was especially eager to hear one of the evening’s two soloists, soprano Nicole Cabell. A Chicago favorite since her days in Lyric Opera’s training program from 2002 to 2005, Cabell won the prestigious BCC Singer of the World Competition in Cardiff, Wales, in 2005 and her career has soared. Chicagoans caught their first glimpses of Cabell as a shrewdly wide-eyed Barbarina in Lyric’s 2003 production of The Magic Flute and her comically commanding Rooster in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen’ in 2004. More recently she has returned to Lyric in leading roles: Musetta in 2007, Leila in The Pearl Fishers in 2008 and, next season, Adina in The Elixir of Love.’

Opera in general and Cabell in particular were Saturday’s expected pleasures. But the night also included the thrill of discovering a vibrant new talent, tenor Russell Thomas, a young man with a confident, stirring voice. Born in Miami and a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s training program, his repertoire is wide-ranging, stretching from Mozart and Bellini roles to Mao-Tse Tung in John Adams’ Nixon in China.’ Ardent without being flamboyant, he proved to be an ideal partner for the radiant Cabell in arias and duets from Gounod’s Faust and Romeo et Juliette, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, Puccini’s La boheme and Verdi’s La traviata. Juanjo Mena, a Spanish conductor making his Chicago debut, led the Grant Park Orchestra.

Cabell’s lustrous soprano is strong and supple, with a hint of dark shadow in its depths. She is a sophisticated performer in the very best sense, finding just the right of balance of passion and impeccable phrasing. A tall, slim beauty with an expressive face, she was equally convincing as the wily Adina, headstrong Rosina, shy Mimi and teen-aged Juliette. Read the full article at www.chicagoclassicalreview.com.

Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review