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High C’s in the Golden West

Symphony Hall
03/12/2010 -  & March 13, 14
Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Prelude – Walther's Prize Song) – Tristan und Isolde (Liebestod)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio ("Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?" – "O namenlose Freude")
Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera ("Eri tu") – Macbeth ("La Luce langue") – Luisa Miller (Overture) – Don Carlo ("O don fatale" – "Dio che nell’alma infondere"
Giacomo Puccini: Turandot ("Nessun dorma") – Manon Lescaut (Intermezzo) – Girl of the Golden West ("Minnie dalla mia casa")
Vincenzo Bellini: Norma ("Mira, O Norma")
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (Overture)

Christine Brewer (soprano), Dolora Zajick (mezzo-soprano), Richard Margison (tenor), Gordon Hawkins (baritone)
Arizona Opera Orchestra, Joel Revzen (conductor)

D. Zajick (Courtesy of Arizona Opera)

With opera season winding down (The Barber of Seville will mark the end of 2009/2010 in April), Arizona Opera has gathered a top notch cast for a program that unfortunately does not wander off the beaten trail. All arias, duets and overtures, as stunningly beautiful as they are, have been heard over and over again and no place was made for pieces, not even one, from a less frequented repertoire. But let us not deny ourselves a good thing: the music is superb and artists, in most cases, meet the requirements.

Selections for orchestra include the prelude to The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, the overtures to Luisa Miller, Pique Dame, and Manon Lescaut’s Intermezzo. In all four instances, Arizona Opera Musical Director Joel Revzen makes a reliable contribution to the varied scores, conducting with flair, and encouraging some exquisite playing from an orchestra that responds with precision and character. The Maestro keeps a tight grip on the reins with Wagner, also allowing, at times, a great deal of dramatic passion and expressiveness, specifically with Tchaikovsky and Puccini. In arias and duets, Revzen shows tactful consideration for the singers.

Notwithstanding a lack of projection, Gordon Hawkins' creamy baritone is adequate in Renato's "Eri tu" and Jack Rance's "Minnie della mia casa". Canadian tenor Richard Margison somehow struggles in Walther's Prize Song but delivers an emotional and satisfactory "Nessun dorma". The voice is clean-cut and accurate rather than conventionally beautiful. Both are impeccable in Don Carlo's duet "Dio che nell'alma infondere".

Eboli is one of Dolora Zajick's signature roles. She easily navigates through the intricacies of "O don fatale", combining volume, great temperament, and a ringing top register. In Lady Macbeth's "La luce langue", Zajick darkens her voice and produces floating and refined half tones.

Dramatic soprano Christine Brewer shades her phrases with subtlety in the long opening section of "Abscheulicher" and copes with the extremely demanding Allegro. Her account of the intoxicating beauty of Isolde's Liebestod is deeply moving, with glorious tone-colour through every range, the voice rising to an orgasmic climax and bringing a heavenly pianissimo on the final bar.

With "Mira, O Norma" the program takes a radical turn. Admittedly, this foray into Bellini may seem inadequate as neither Brewer nor Zajick possess the nimble lightness required for bel canto. But this is a concert after all, and one can indulge.

And indulge we did.

Arizona Opera 2010/2011 Season

Christian Dalzon



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