By Lawrence Budmen 

The debut of Orchestra Miami on Wednesday at UM Gusman Hall fielded a 36 member ensemble under the baton of Miami native Elaine Rinaldi in a 250th birthday salute to Mozart. But the evening’s real highlight turned out to be a spectacular solo turn by a soprano on the verge of international stardom.

Nearly two dozen of the musicians in this new orchestra are former Florida Philharmonic players. Too often the general level of orchestral execution was uneven at best.

The Overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro failed to sparkle. Beethoven’s high spirited Symphony No.8 was delineated in musical sentences rather than paragraphs. Wayward woodwinds marred the opening movement while the Scherzando was rhythmically lax. The energy level picked up in the finale where some adroitly turned phrasing was closer to Beethoven’s combination of boisterous humor and aristocratic classicism. 

Jacques Ibert’s Homage a Mozart, a delightful French soufflé, emerged ragged and ponderous. Rinaldi’s performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No.1 (Classical) failed to capture the music’s Mozartean wit and élan. At times the ensemble only approximated Prokofiev’s brilliant orchestration. 

But Eglise Gutierrez, a former Miamian and graduate of Philadelphia’s prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts, sang three Mozart arias with pinpoint accuracy and ravishing tonal hues. With high profile appearances in New York, Tel Aviv, and Rome, she is on the cusp of a major operatic career and for good reason. Bedecked in a red evening gown and long, Joan Sutherland-like hair, Gutierrez set the stage ablaze. In the concert aria Vorrei Spiegarvi her fearless agility and creamy middle register conquered every twist and turn of Mozart’s acrobatic roulades. 

Aside from one stray high note, Marten aller Arten from The Abduction from the Seraglio was dispatched with passionate abandon and soaring coloratura runs. As an encore, Gutierrez unfurled her rich, powerful lower register in Pamina’s aria Ach ich fuhl’s from The Magic Flute, sung with deep emotion and purity of line. 

Rinaldi clearly has a penchant for offering interesting thematic programming and promising soloists. If she can bring greater vivacity to her conducting, Orchestra Miami could be a valuable addition to Miami’s cultural life.

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