Review: Opera Returns to New York with Fresh Finesse

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Opera is back in New York.

On Tuesday evening, two months before the Metropolitan Opera was scheduled to reopen, a full-scale live performance took place for the first time since pre-pandemic. And it was in Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center, in the shadow of the Met. Theater Nuovo He presented a half-stage, concert-dressed version of Rossini’s play “The Barber of Seville”. (There is a second show on Wednesday evening.)

Like nearly all outdoor performances, this one required amplification. Usually this is a burden. On Tuesday, though, the music proved to be a balm for the nearly 750 spectators as it had to compete with the sounds of generators grunting and crackling machines in a nearby street.

An extension of the Bel Canto at Caramoor series by Will Crutchfield, a conductor and scholar of early 19th century Italian opera. 20 years ranTeatro Nuovo is a performance and training program that focuses on the bel canto repertoire. Crutchfield, generally known for his dedication to completing performances of these works, had to adjust Rossini’s score to finish the performance at 10 PM, the park’s curfew.

Not important. This was still almost a three-hour opera. And what came out was a fresh, lively performance full of ideas and subtleties.

Artists working with Crutchfield examine the performance practices of the golden age of opera. Its purpose is not to make today’s performers feel indebted to the past in ornamentation and rhythmic performance; After all, the style in Rossini’s time encouraged freedom and talent. Crutchfield tries to encourage his colleagues to start from scratch and think for themselves.

Supported by 31 orchestral players, this line-up consistently made its own interpretive choices. Early in Act I, tenor Nicholas Simpson – as Count Almaviva, who falls in love with the beautiful Rosina – brought a bright voice and wide lyricism to the serenade he sang from under his balcony. Simpson embellished the melodic lines with strictly ornate ornaments; Not in vain Crutchfield called an offer from the program “decoration training camp.” But his decorations stemmed from melody and mood and never seemed overly elaborate.

As Figaro, dynamic bass Hans Tashjian, with a nice, light ping in the upper range of his voice, graced the character’s famous aria “Largo al factotum” with fresh, creative embellishments. Many singers exaggerate Figaro’s boast of being Seville’s indispensable do-it-all master. But Tashjian sang the aria almost as a personal revelation to the audience – underestimated with some wonderfully soft spoken expressions. You felt that this Figaro truly believed you were someone special, beyond smugness.

Meso-soprano Hannah Ludwig, as Rosina, perhaps went a step further in embellishing her defining aria, “Una voce poco fa.” Still, he spoke supple sentences in a rich, dark voice and conveyed the character’s mix of reticence and arrogance.

Baritone Scott Purcell, offensive Dr. He was excellent as Bartolo; As her housekeeper, Berta, soprano Alina Tamborini was unusually deep and touchy. Young bass Daniel Fridley was downright creepy in the aria “La calunnia”, where, as the shrewd Don Basilio, he explains to Bartolo that the way to deal with Almaviva is to start a rumor and help spread it until an explosive scandal erupts. . (Rossini predicted social media two centuries ago.)

Rather than relying on a single conductor, this performance – a nod to the usual practice in Rossini’s time – was directed by both Crutchfield, who played the accompanying fortepiano, and violinist Jakob Lehmann, who conducted the orchestral players while seated. a stool. Although this looser approach sometimes resulted in minor mistakes, the gain in spontaneity and freshness was well worth it.

Barber of Seville

It was held in Damrosch Park, Manhattan, on Tuesday.

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