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.