After yesterday’s talk of collaborations, producers, and managers, we shouldn’t forget why we all do this – to experience opera! And there were many great experiences to be had in Santa Fe.
The performance of LA TRAVIATA we attended was spellbinding. Brenda Rae, who sang the role of Violetta, was ravishing in both sound and stage presence. As it should, this production of the opera revolved around her. Her death scene in the fourth act was one of the best I have ever witnessed. What a great portrayal and performance! Joining her on stage was Michael Fabiano in a star appearance as Alfredo. Michael is sounding utterly fantastic and Alfredo is a role to which he is ideally. Everyone in Philadelphia should be very proud of this hometown talent who is having a well-deserved major career. I hope to have both these artists on the Opera Philadelphia stage in future seasons – fingers crossed.
Michael Fabiano as Alfredo and Brenda Rae as Violetta. Photo: Ken Howard.
Offenbach’s THE GRAND DUCHESS OF GEROLSTEIN, filled with great dance numbers, splendid costumes and fizzy tunes, epitomizes the operetta genre and was a huge audience hit. The Santa Fe Opera created an energetic and colorful production with everything that an operetta lover could ask for including a twelve-foot rotating wedding cake and beautifully choreographed dance sequences. Susan Graham’s performance as the Duchess was imbued with unbridled sex drive. The whole evening bubbled along with great fun. Both the performers and the audience experienced a wonderful time together. It is always a treat to hear and see Susan Graham, a truly wonderful talent!
Susan Graham as the Duchess. Photo: Ken Howard.
A special shout out goes to Kevin Burdette, who delivered a physically demanding and highly entertaining performance of General Boum. Only the night before had he delivered an equally demanding performance as the Judge in OSCAR! Both Susan and Kevin are consummate artists and it was a treat to see them both in their element. It was also great to hear tenor Paul Appleby for the first time (Fritz).
Kevin Burdette as General Boum. Photo: Ken Howard.
Joyce DiDonato and Lawrence Brownlee’s performances in LA DONNA DEL LAGO were simply revelatory. The final scenes of this Rossini opera, which is seldom produced, make this opera worth experiencing. In these scenes, both leads delivered performances that took your breath away. Larry’s beautiful tone and technique, coupled with Joyce’s incandescence as lady of the lake, made this an unforgettable operatic experience. A good cast, the talented Stephen Lord on the podium, and an impactful production (especially the court reveal at the end) meant that this was a highlight of the year. Congrats to all!
Lawrence Brownlee as Giacomo V and Joyce DiDonato as Elena. Photo: Ken Howard.
Of course both these singers have strong Philadelphia ties. Joyce attended the Academy of Vocal Arts and Larry has enjoyed an association with our Music Director Corrado Rovaris that started at La Scala and has carried over to Opera Philadelphia with performances in L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI and LA CENERENTOLA. We are in the process of commissioning a chamber opera for Larry to be presented in June 2015. Also, it would be wonderful if we could find the right opportunity for Joyce to return to Philadelphia. These two artists deserve every opportunity that is provided.
Unfortunately, the only night during our stay in Santa Fe that the remaining opera, Marriage of Figaro, was playing conflicted with The Santa Fe Opera’s annual gala that we had the privilege of attending on our final night in Santa Fe.
Up next: A visit with Nathan Gunn and my thoughts on our new OPERA IN THE CITY series.