By Lawrence Budmen

Orchestra Miami presented an operatic extravaganza in honor of the bicentennial of Ricordi, the Italian music publishing house, on Saturday at Dade County Auditorium. While the contribution of the relatively new ensemble left much to be desired and the projections of original Ricordi editions did not always work, the evening was a veritable feast of superb singing.

Rossiniís Overture to La Cenerentola proved a less than sparkling opener. Orchestral sound was often strident in the hallís dry acoustics and conductor Elaine Rinaldií s plodding leadership missed the ťlan of this opera buffa curtain raiser. 

The musical temperature immediately rose with the entrance of soprano Eglise Gutierrez, a former Miamian with a major international career. Gutierrez spun glittering coloratura roulades in a dazzling rendition of a fiendishly difficult aria from Rossiniís Semiramide. She cast a dizzying spell with a radiantly vocalized Caro Nome from Verdiís Rigoletto.

Gregory Schmidt unfurled a promising lyric tenor voice with a strong high range in the showpiece aria from Donizettiís La Fille du Regiment, capped by fearless high Cís. Schmidt brought lightness and finesse to La Donna e Mobile, also from Rigoletto. 

Substituting for the indisposed Aprile Millo, Indra Thomas revealed a luxuriant Verdi soprano with a silvery upper register in arias from Un Ballo in Maschera and Il Trovatore. An exciting Aida for Palm Beach Opera two seasons ago, Thomas brings richness of timbre, gleaming vocal coloration, and passionate expressivity to this repertoire. This is Verdi singing in the grand manner, reminiscent of Martina Arroyo. 

Mark Rucker definitely took the award for hardest working artist of the evening. This stalwart baritone has repeatedly given impressive performances with Florida Grand Opera over the past two decades. His warm, suave vocal timbre and dramatic heft shone resplendently in a fiery version of the aria and cabaletta from Verdií s La Forza del Destino. Ruckerís seamless legato and subtly understated intensity was thrilling in Rigolettoís aria. In the duet from Act 4 of Il Trovatore, Thomas and Rucker were electrifying, unleashing incendiary vocal gold that brought the audience to its feet. 

Tenor Eduardo Villa essayed dulcet, burnished lyricism in Recondita Armonia from Pucciniís Tosca and ringing fervor in a stentorian Nessun Dorma from Turandot. Villaís robust declamation and Gutierrezís exquisitely shaded pathos led the Sextet and Finale from Act 2 of Donizettiís Lucia di Lammermoor (joined by burly voiced baritone Nelson Martinez, rotund bass Rubin Casas, and the vociferous Civic Chorale of Greater Miami), with Rinaldi turning up the heat for a high voltage conclusion to a memorable evening of song. 

Copyright Sun-Sentinel


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