A gala event
Roy Thomson Hall
05/21/2015 - & May 22, 23, 2015
Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem
Amber Wagner (soprano), Jamie Barton (mezzo-soprano), Frank Lopardo (tenor), Eric Owens (bass)
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Noel Edison (choir director), Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (conductor)
A. Wagner & J. Barton (© Malcolm Cook)
Sir Andrew Davis, the TSO’s Conductor Laureate, is visiting for a two-week, three-program stint. This year marks the 40th anniversary of his appointment as music director of the orchestra (he occupied the poet from 1975 to 1988, during which the orchestra moved into Roy Thomson Hall).
The last performance of Verdi’s great work by the TSO was in February, 2010, under Gianandrea Noseda. Noseda led a viscerally engaged performance with basically no time for performers or audience to catch their breath between the work’s sections. Andrew Davis gave us all a bit of time before each part was launched. It’s nice to report that each section was as well-shaped and ardently expressed as one could wish.
Both orchestra and chorus were in fine fettle. Extra oomph resulted from the placing of brass players high in the balcony sections, making the big, tingling moments even bigger.
But what about the quartet of soloists? As usual with Verdi, prime focus was on the women. Mezzo-sporano Jamie Barton was simply phenomenal, with a voice of astonishing bottom-to-top evenness and expressiveness. Her recent winning of both the Cardiff Singer of the World competition and the Richard Tucker Award were obviously well based. She last sang in Toronto in 2009 when she was Emilia in Otello for the Canadian Opera Company. Lets hope the TSO and/or COC can nab her again soon, although I’ll bet her engagement calendar is getting full.
Also stellar was soprano Amber Wagner, whose only previous appearance locally was in a single performance as Ariadne in the Strauss opera for the COC in 2011. Her voice has both amplitude and richness, and resounds thrillingly throughout the capacious hall. She nailed the scariest note in the work, the b-flat in the Libera me.
One can be forgiven for thinking that Frank Lopardo had more or less retired, even though many tenors his age (58 this year) are in fine form. Judging from this performance, so is he. The voice was steady and rings out in the ideal Verdian manner. As well, there was lovely use of mezzavoce as he skillfully modulated his lines.
The depths of the bass voice in many ways provides the anchor to the work. Eric Owens has the right sound and technique as he managed to fill the hall with a sound that has elements of both a purr and a growl. He was notably very serious of demeanor - I hope he was enjoying himself, as we in the audience were.
A note to audience members: Sir Andrew Davis attempted to hold a silence at the end of the work but a few people were too eager to applaud. A good conductor sends signals to the audience as well as to the performers - pay attention!