in its current season the Washington Opera will be giving 80 performances
of eight operas, the beginnings of this impressive company were
humble. In fact, the first formal performance of the company in
1957 took place in an auditorium in one of Washington’s universities,
and rehearsals had to be held in New York.
During the recent season, I attended performances of Don Carlos
and The Marriage of Figaro. Don Carlos is one
of Verdi’s richest operas, which confronts issues of religious,
political and personal conflicts, all played out in the court
of Philip II of Spain. The opera premiered in Paris, but Verdi
subsequently produced an Italian version in which he omitted the
first act. The Washington production opted for the abridged, four-act
Italian version with the addition of the Veil Song.
The production, directed by Sonja Frisell, was rather foreboding,
dark and gloomy. The central character in the opera is the Marquis
of Posa. In this performance, Posa was sung by Dyane Croft who
gave a masterful, incisive, vocally imposing and deeply moving
performance. Philip, sung by Paata Burchuladze, brought the required
pathos and regal bearing to the role. Ella giammai m’amo,
and in his subsequent duet with the grand inquisitor, ably sung
by Daniel Sumegi. Ramon Vargas, the Mexican tenor, was the hapless
Don Carlos. He sang effectively with fluidity and assurance. Soprano
Veronica Villarroel, as Elizabeth, possesses a rather small voice
and was often drowned out. The Veil Song and O don Fatale,
were well delivered. The orchestra under Sir Edward Downes brought
to life all the subtle nuances of this complex score, allowing
the singers ample freedom for phrasing and expression.
Mozart’s quintessential opera, The Marriage of Figaro, has
everything—superb music, witty comedy, intrigues and political
overtones exemplified by tension between the social classes. The
opera is so great because of Mozart’s genius, as well as the librettist,
Lorenzo da Ponte, who supplied Mozart with a brilliant plot which
he adapted from the second part of the trilogy by the French playwright,
Da Ponte is a fascinating character. Because of his numerous romantic
escapades he was compelled to flee from city to city. Landing
in Vienna, he became a librettist at the Imperial Court where
he linked up with Mozart. Their collaboration with Figaro,
Don Giovanni and Cose Fan Tutte represent the greatest
operatic partnership in musical history. In this production, the
part of the maid Susanna was sung by the Russian lyric soprano,
Anna Netrebko, from the Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg. Possessing
an extraordinary voice, she is also a superb actress with a wonderful
stage presence. Although the rest of the cast was also effective,
she absolutely stole the show.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2001.