Monday, March 07, 2005

First impressions

Thursday was the Met debut for two performers: Fabio Luisi, a young Italian conductor with impressive Austro-German credentials, and Luciana d'Intino, an Italian mezzo who's already debuted at most of the other major houses. Luisi showed promisingly detailed ideas about phrasing, tempi, etc. but wasn't always getting everyone else to go along. We'll see. The previous Met Don Carlo gave us Dolora Zajick bulling her way through the Veil Song before an impressively powerful 'O don fatale'. d'Intino was a welcome change: the sound is solid not luxurious (nor wall-shaking a la Zajick), nor does she have the widest range of vocal colors, but she's got full rhythmic and dynamic control of this instrument and an old-school Italian feel for Verdi's phrases. Her Veil Song was the evening's show-stopper, and rightly so.

But the first impression I left most thinking about was one from over three years ago. Sondra Radvanovsky had sung one-offs of (Trovatore) Leonora and Micaela in the years before, but reviews were mixed about this promising but apparently raw soprano whom before that day I'd only heard in bit parts. The Luisa Miller showed something else: a full-grown artist with an astounding golden-age instrument. It was easily produced, large-scale but unequivocally agile (with trill!), and had an affecting quick vibrato in the middle and remarkable squillo on top. Assisted by Levine -- and Nikolai Putilin -- she showed total command of the long Verdian line and some fluent acting chops to boot.

That night was, in short, a complete and not-entirely-expected triumph.* Met management seems to have since been trying -- with some success -- to put Radvanovsky on stage as many times as possible. And I've gone to a bunch of these, drinking up more of the voice that so intoxicated me -- note upon note and phrase upon phrase -- that first night. And always there's a bit of it... But never quite so much. Of course now I'm expecting her to spin out that timbre in endless slow lines and thrilling quick coloratura, to dominate every ensemble climax, and to wrap that all up in a plain and convincing characterization. On every night? Of every opera? With every conductor? Ah, the life of a star.

[* Interestingly, I don't think it was even the best singer's performance I saw that month! Karita Mattila's only unvideotaped Eva may have been her finest evening at the Met. What a season that was.]

Thursday Radvanovsky seemed to be pacing herself through the first four acts, perhaps feeling out the shape of the role in her long version debut. And the huge top notes sounded less knit to the rest of the voice, and she too often seemed to be singing on top of the character rather than through...

But she still is and has all the things above, and I'll be going back to take more in.


  1. Nothing like hearing Sondra's voice -- that booming quality that I've so enjoyed listening to over the years. Heck, even the dog liked her singing when she practiced back in L.A. years ago!!!

    Who would've known that she would have got this far?

    There were critics at first (as there usually are in this field), but I have always had a great respect and admiration for her singing abilities, and her sultrous (almost dark) tonal qualities of her voice.

    Honestly so, her voice is quite unique, one that fits a wide variety of roles and performances. She truly has become an 'opera star'.

  2. I head her sing the title in Lucrezia Borgia at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC two weeks ago. She was 2nd string but INCREDIBLE! I have been to many operas and the mostly elderly audience was shouting and screaming. During her 3rd curtain call the cast was jumping up and down to make noise on stage and clapping for her too. What a night!


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.