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Posts Tagged ‘Lisette Oropesa’

My first encounter with Lisette Oropesa took place in her Met debut as Susanna, replacing Isabel Bayrakdarian. Her singing was fresh and charming and I knew she would go places. Mozart was there again for the second time I saw her as Ismene in a Mitridate in Munich. There my impression was a bit tamer. She seemed busy with the notes and sparkled only intermittently. As I last met her as Gilda at the Met she was fully in control of the coloratura and other technical challenges but rather self-contained and detached in terms of interpretation . Then the news of her success in Les Huguenots in Paris, the Richard Tucker Award and leading roles in Europe and back in New York made me seize the opportunity to see her recital at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro.

She offered an ambitious bel canto and French Romantic arias concert, a showcase of her later roles. She started off with the entrance aria of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, in which she proved alert to the text and nimble in her fioriture sung in perfect legato. As in other items of the program, she treads lightly in extreme high notes but provides athletically supported in alts in her puntature. And the trills are beyond reproach. Her second aria was Adieu, notre petite table from Massenet’s Manon, a number that let her show the clarity and the idiomatic quality of her French, a serviceable low register and an innate grasp of French style. Actually, the old-fashioned grain of her velvety soprano is tailor-made for that repertoire, where the absence of flashiness in her high notes is less of a liability than in bel canto roles (especially in big theatres). The first part of the evening was rounded off with the entrance aria of Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Actually, Bellini flatters Ms. Oropesa’s ease with long lines, her flickering vocal production keeping those elegiac phrases alive. Also, her whole attitude is extremely proper to ingénue roles, which benefit from her warm, feminine personality. And again – the coloratura was accurately and joyfully dispatched.

After the interval, her open-eyed youthfulness made her Marguérite credible and less of a Dummkopf in Ah, je ris from Gounod’s Faust. The next item in the program, musicianly sung as it was, showed that Verdi and Puccini should not be – at least at this point – her core repertoire. There is no sense of radiance and liberation in Magda’s high notes in Ch’il bel sogno from La Rondinelli, even if she sang them with abandon. Back to Bellini, she was again in her safe place as Elvira in a heartfelt mad scene from I Puritani, crowned by lovely pianissimi. The encore – Juliette’s waltz from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette only confirmed that French opera is probably where she is going to make a difference.

The house orchestra might keep you on the edge of your seat in its unreliability and the overture to Rossini’s Guillaume Tell was a bumpy ride. Conductor Yuval Zorn slowly regained his pace in the Méditation from Massenet’s Thaïs. The spalla may not have the world’s most glamorous tone but floated his tone and provided tasteful portamento comme il  faut. After the pause, the orchestra seemed to have warmed and, in spite of some blunders in the brass section, displayed richer sounds in its strings, especially in the nocturne from Carlos Gomes’s Condor.

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When I saw Jonathan Miller’s production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 2005, I named my review “Contessa, perdono”, because of the words I had written about the evening’s prima donna. Now I repeat the same title because of the words I did write back then. This fall’s reprise had been anounced with Dorothea Röschmann and Isabel Bayrakdarian as mistress and servant in the Almaviva household – an exotic idea considering these ladies’ similarity of Fach. However, Röschmann’s health problems and Bayrakdarian’s pregnancy forced the Met to recast. Therefore, Hei-Kyung Hong, the Met’s resident Countess was called to fill in.

Although Hong’s soprano used to be more crystalline in 2005, these two years must have been very rewarding to the Korean soprano. This afternoon she proved to be an all-round entirely satisfying Countess. As in 2005, her voice is an admirable instrument: at once full and silvery lyric soprano with a very easy and gleaming top register. However, her ability to convey it through Mozartian lines is impressively improved. Maybe I saw her in a bad day in 2005, but the difference is simply striking. She is still not entirely at ease with Porgi, amor, but her Dove sono was note-perfect. Hers was a spirited, charming performance – and her stage persona could not be more graceful. I doubt that Röschmann would have been better, judging from her Salzbug DVD with Harnoncourt.

The “replacement” Susanna is also a true find. The young and volatile Lisette Oropesa from New Orleans has the proper quicksilvery voice, idiomatic Italian, complete grasp of style, enough cutting edge to pierce through the orchestra and a most likeable personality. In her Met debut, Anke Vondung offered an intense and irresistible Cherubino. Her Non so più was a bit thick-toned but Voi che sapete was beautifully sung. If I am not more enthusiastic, it is because I have witnessed the incomparable Joyce DiDonato’s Met debut in the same role in 2005.

There are plenty of Figaros more richly sung than Erwin Schrott’s – if my memory does not fail me, Luca Pisaroni’s performance in 2005 was rather more consistent too. But the Uruguayan bass-baritone’s stage charisma is an undeniable asset. With his neverending imagination, he illuminates Lorenzo da Ponte’s text with fresh new ideas throughout. Also, his ability to interact and to extract the best from his stage partners is praiseworthy, particularly in what refers to his Susanna, with whom she formed a vivacious couple. I am afraid Michele Pertusi is not in the level of the other singers – his slightly veiled bass is not devoid of charm but his whole approach is too buffo for this role.

Britain’s contribution to this production is far superior in 2007 than in 2005 – Ann Murray is still a formidable Marcellina and Robin Leggate was in particularly strong voice as Basilio. For once it was a pity they they were deprived of their arias.

Back in 2005, Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting was considered too fast and nervous – and I have to confess a soft spot for the “tense” approach for this opera. Philippe Jordan’s comfortable, well-organised perspective was too reliable on the cast to produce the necessary sparkle. Differently from 2005, the string playing was often blurred and the brass section again left a lot to be desired.

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