One of the greatest of all opera composers, Giuseppe Verdi, is having what would be his 200th birthday celebrated all this year, and Sarasota Opera, being one of the greatest proponents of his work, got an almost seven-month lead (his actual date of birth was Oct. 10, 1813) with a massive concert, at the Opera House, featuring some of his best and least known works.
One problem with a concert of operatic scenes is that there’s no time for the singers to get into character. There are also no costumes or scenery, so the singers are without their usual operatic accoutrements. Another difficulty is singers too often sing an excerpt from a role they’re not yet up to, vocally. (On the other hand, it gives younger, less experienced singers a chance to do a scene or two from an opera that may be fine for them in the future.) And subtlety often takes a backseat to enthusiasm.
Of course, having an orchestra on stage with them, especially one as excellent as the Sarasota Opera Orchestra, led by Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi, is a great support, as is the exceptional chorus of studio artists and apprentices.
The solo singers on stage were no slouches, either. A few did a bit of over-singing, pushing their resources to the very edge of their current abilities, but, for the most part, they came across well.
The Act I trio and Act II tenor aria, which Verdi cut from the original versions of “Un giorno di regno,” were wonderful examples of singers in evening dress suffusing their roles with character and charisma. Danielle Walker, Jennifer Feinstein and especially tenor Hak Soo Kim, were all in excellent voice and, without flailing or flaunting, managed to turn themselves, vocally and figuratively, into their roles.
Sean Anderson and Kevin Short managed a well sung but fairly wooden performance of the Act II duet between Rodrigue and Philippe in the French version of “Don Carlos,” while Walker and Heath Huberg gave a credible performance of the Brindisi from “La Traviata,” although neither is ready to take on the full role at this stage in their careers.
The excerpts from “Aida” were thrilling with full throttle singing from Jonathan Burton as Radames, Feinstein as Amneris, Short as Amonasro, Young Bok Kim as The King and William Roberts (a studio artist) as Ramfis.
Lindsay Barche, a Studio Artist, made a last-minute appearance for the ailing Brenda Harris in the title role. Although singing only excerpts, Barche, whose voice has grown considerably since appearing here in “The Crucible,” may want to be careful of the roles she accepts. A recent Internet blog dealt with this subject, with singers and managers weighing in on the dangers of singing roles one is not yet up to performing. Having a gigantic voice doesn’t mean one is ready to take on gigantic parts. Doing so could lead to gigantic vocal problems.
Subtlety was not the order of the evening, but extravagance of sound and enthusiasm were. Even more was this thought: Sarasota is blessed to have an opera company that can bring us such excellence. We’re also fortunate to have two such excellent orchestras — Sarasota Opera Orchestra and Sarasota Orchestra — living and performing in our midst. Very few cities, especially of our size, can boast such riches.
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