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Tenor Shines in Concert Bohème

Mann Center for the Performing Arts
07/01/2008 -  and 9 July (G. R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado)
Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème
Darina Takova (Mimì), Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo), Luis Ledesma (Marcello), Arianna Zukerman (Musetta), Alexander Tall (Schaunard), Grigory Soloviev (Colline), Greg Vorst (Alcindoro)
The Philadelphia Orchestra, Rossen Milanov (conductor)

Rossen Milanov and the Philadelphia Orchestra brought concert opera back to the Mann Center in Fairmount Park Tuesday evening. Puccini's La Bohème provided the calling card for a youthful cast of singers making their orchestra and Mann Center debuts.

Claiming attention was Michael Fabiano, a young tenor who won the Metropolitan Auditions and recently made his debut as Rinuccio at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Fabiano has attracted an enthusiastic following in Philadelphia with notable successes as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, Anatol in Barber’s Vanessa and Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Academy of Vocal Arts where he is a resident artist. Although only 24, Fabiano left an indelible interpretive mark on his first Rodolfo. This tenor has vocal gold in his throat – a rich, warm Italianate tone – and he knows how to shape and color a musical phrase. Fabiano’s lyric tenor soared through “Che gelida manina.” Caressing the music with a flow of pliant sound, he molded the phrases elegantly and rose effortlessly to a gleaming high C. Fabiano opened up his tenor exultantly in the second and third acts and found an array of tone color in Mimi’s death scene.

In the duets for Rodolfo and Marcello, Fabiano was joined by baritone Luis Ledesma. Blending his voice masterfully with the tenor’s, Ledesma sang expertly. His attractive, dark baritone rang out impressively. Dressed in black suits and open-throated dark shirts, the two singers acted confidently as they moved across the stage in front of the orchestra. The other male singers also impressed. Alexander Tall brought a distinctive baritone to Schaunard's music. Singing sensitively, Grigory Soloviov filled out Colline's "Coat" Song with his suave-toned bass.

The men proved more effective than the women. Unlike the male singers who memorized their music, the two sopranos turned the pages of their scores as they sang behind music stands. Darina Takova's light-grained soprano made little effect in either of Mimì's arias. The Bulgarian soprano sang more expressively in the duets with Rodolfo and Marcello. As Musetta, Arianna Zukerman turned some nice phrases at lower dynamic levels but failed to leave a distinctive mark on this flamboyant role. Rounding out the cast in this “edited” version of Puccini’s score, bass Greg Vorst sang a solid Alcindoro.

Before the performance began, Milanov promised the audience this “complete” Bohème would be “special.” Special it was, but hardly complete. Big chunks of the first and second acts – no Benoit, no Parpignol and no chorus - were missing along with a portion of the opening of the third act. Leading an assured performance, Milanov drew a full, rich sound from the orchestra. The conductor emphasized the instrumental detail in Puccini's golden score. For some reason, the piercing climactic chords at the end of the final act lacked impact. It sounded as if only half of the brass were playing at this crucial moment. A minor blemish on a memorable evening.

Robert Baxter



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