Young artists find their Verdi voices with Maryland Lyric Opera

Sun May 19, 2019 at 11:58 am
By Joan Reinthaler

Music of Giuseppe Verdi was performed by the young singers of Maryland Lyric Opera Saturday night.

Maryland Lyric Opera offered an evening of Verdi opera scenes in concert at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center Saturday night, which featured some splendid singing and a good-sized orchestra that, for the most part, acquitted itself well. 

MDLO is a small company committed to providing performance opportunities for young professionals early in their careers. Scenes from Il Trovatore  and La Traviata shared the first half with Rigoletto coming after intermission.

As usual in concert opera, there were no sets or costumes. The only prop was a chair; lighting patterns projected onto a backdrop changed colors from time to time and seemed nice but irrelevant. This left the job of creating each scene entirely up to the singers and the orchestra. Of the six singers featured, the women proved better at generating dramatic heat Saturday night.

The evening opened inauspiciously halfway through the second scene of  Il Trovatore’s first act as the Count, sung by full-voiced baritone Javier Arrey, entered, reveling in the quiet night and in his love for Leonora, all the while struggling with pitch. With the entrance of Leonora (the radiant soprano Raquel González) and Manrico (the sturdy tenor, Marco Cammarota), however, Arrey found his footing, things settled down and the ensuing Romanza e Terzetto went much better.

González provided some of the evening’s loveliest and most intense moments as Leonora tried to seduce the Duke into pardoning Manrico in Il Trovatore and, as Violetta in two scenes from La Traviata. In the latter she celebrated her freedom in “Siempre libera” and then finally faced the inevitable loss of her lover in a confrontation with Germont. Arrey’s Germont was dignified, sympathetic and a grounded foil to Violetta’s emotional turmoil.

González, a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist program graduate, has the kind of warm, rich voice that can communicate dark disdain one minute and glowing lightness the next. Her ornamentation seems effortless and her eyes and posture tell a whole story all by themselves.

In one of the evening’s most compelling scenes, the convolutions of the Trovatore backstory were given a passionate and angry telling by mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman as the gypsy, Azucena (in “Stride la vampa” and the ending scene). Freedman, another D-C YAP graduate, is an imposing figure with a big voice that can take on a steely edge when needed; she used this both to snarl her anger at injustice heaped upon her and to voice remorse at the revenge she took (killing her own son by mistake).

The Rigoletto scenes brought some new singers to the stage, soprano Nayoung Ban, a bubbly, light-hearted Gilda who was as girlish and naïve in her crush on the Duke as she was heart-broken by deception, and, as the Duke, Yongxi Chen, who sang “La donna è mobile” with a fresh, ringing tenor voice and a great deal of enthusiasm.

The concluding Act III Quartet, that pits Gilda and her father, Rigoletto (Arrey) against the Duke and an admirer (Freedman) was a triumph of ensemble and clarity.

Conductor Louis Salemno, who is a resident coach in the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist program and a  backbone of the MDLO company, has decades of opera experience behind him. While his conducting looks ungainly, he guided the orchestra surely. His players responded with confidence and the kind of gentle color and graceful support that allowed the singers room for subtlety and dynamic shading.

The program will be repeated 2 p.m. Sunday. MDLO’s last program of the season brings an evening of Puccini to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on June 7 and 9.


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