FESTIVAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA/ LUCIANO ACOCELLA
By Lawrence Budmen
The opera world has been searching for new tenor stars to replace the icons of yesteryear. Luciano Pavarotti, well past his prime, has been felled by illness. Jose Carerras has essentially retired from the stage. Placido Domingo inches toward retirement from singing but not from the operatic world. (His burgeoning careers as conductor, artistic director of opera companies in Washington and Los Angeles, vocal coach, and director of a vocal competition promise to continue unabated.)
The wait for a successor to these bona fide greats has come to an end. On November 28 the Concert Association presented the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon in concert at the Carnival Centerís Knight Concert Hall. Villazon is the authentic article: a vibrant singer who generates electricity with a glorious, effortlessly produced voice and patrician artistry. With his rich, almost baritonal lower register and darkly expressive vocal coloration, Villazon brings to mind the young Domingo. In a generous, wide ranging program, he traversed Russian, French, Italian, and Spanish operatic genres.
The tenorís initial aria was interrupted by an accident (a patron fell) in the hall. Villazon stopped singing and waited until he had the listenersí full attention again. He relaunched Il mio tesoro from Mozartís Don Giovanni with striking vocal presence. Although he was using Mozart as a warm up, Villazon handled the ariaís daunting coloratura roulades flawlessly.
With Kuda Kuda, the poet Lenskyís final lament from Tchaikovskyís Eugene Onegin, Villazon came into his own. The tenorís impassioned vocalism was matched by flawless control and exquisitely sculpted phrasing. He sang Don Joseís Flower aria from Bizetís Carmen with impeccable French style. In Wertherís despairing lament from Massenetís opera, Villazonís rich instrument poured out with the soaring white heat of vocal gold. Has anyone sung this repertoire with such artistry since the heyday of Nicolai Gedda?
In two Verdi arias (from Luisa Miller and Macbeth) Villazonís honeyed tone and true Italianate lyricism were the very definition of great singing. His idiomatic spontaneity in two zarzuela selections (by Pablo Luna and Pablo Sorozabal) riveted excitement. His version of Sorozabalís No puede ser was particularly distinguished by melting lyricism and effortless beauty of utterance.
In response to repeated standing, cheering ovations, Villazon offered arias from Cileaís LíArlesiana and Giordanoís Fedora. Here was pure verismo heaven: singing of stylish abandon, rendered with near perfection throughout the entire vocal range. His final encore of Rossiniís La Danza combined edgy vernacular excitement with showbiz panache.
Conductor Luciano Acocella was a supple accompanist. He led the specially assembled Festival Symphony Orchestra in a felicitous traversal of the Overture to Mozartís Marriage of Figaro and lightly accented versions of two Preludes from Carmen. The Act III entríacte to Bizetís timeless masterpiece featured an elegant flute solo by Karen Dixon (a New World Symphony alumnus). In a sizzling performance of the Overture to Verdiís La Forza del Destino, the brass section had tremendous impact. Acocella was most impressive in a highly intense rendition of the Intermezzo from Pucciniís Manon Lescaut with gorgeous cello and viola solos by Chris Glansdorp and Chauncey Patterson (the violist of the Miami String Quartet).
Rolando Villazon is a rare talent. His is a voice for the ages. Kudos to the remarkable Judy Drucker for bringing him to Miami!