I saw the opening on Saturday
Anna- June Anderson
Giovanna- Phyllis Pancella
Conductor: John Mauceri
Director: Fabrizio Melano
Sets: From NYCO
I will run to see a belcanto opera and was eagerly awaiting this production.
Like everyone else I wondered what state Anderson's voice is in. I'm safe in
saying that she sounds the same as she has for the past 5-7 years. (Do with
that what you will!). One thing she has improved greatly was her pitch. She
was not as flat as she usually is. She took half of the first act to warm up,
with a noticeable wobble with notes up to about an A. Her highest register
was still clear and focused. She can't thow off a roulade as fast as in the
past, as evidenced in the final aria "coppia iniqua." That said, she
displayed some lovely lyrical and plaintive singing in the second act and
especially her final scene, which was near heart breaking. Her Act 2, scene 1
duet with Pancella was wonderful, both women in good voice and very
dramatically involved. (This scene was reminiscent of "mira o Norma.") June
is a wonderful actress, something I was unaware of. She also is quite a small
woman. All the comparisons to Sutherland stop below the neck.
Pancella was in excellent voice and I think this music suits her perfectly.
Except for lack of a bloom on the highest notes (Which were perfectly sung)
she has never sounded better. I've heard her often at Glimmerglass and
haven't been as impressed as I was here.
Manfredd Hemm was quite good, but sometimes blustery as Henry VIII. He looked
every bit the part too. Smeton was a a former Pitt. Opera Center alum with a
lovely, well focused, rich sounding voice who will be singing smaller roles
at the Met this year- Keep your eye on her.
David Miller was a small voiced Percy who often reminded me of Rockwell
Blake. While not a world class singer I think there is something to be said
about accurately and easily singing this difficult music. I wouldn't want to
hear him sing anything heavier, but am told The Duke and Alfredo are also in
Mauceri is making his Pittsburgh Music Director debut with this opera- while
the orchestra sounded well rehearsed they were just too damned loud in act I-
it was ridiculous how loudly he let them play. Luckily he got better control
over them in Act II.
No brilliant ideas with the staging, and the chorus was directed to "stand a
sing and look pretty," which they did quite well. Amusingly the director's
bio states he directed Callas! When and where are my next questions?
The traditional sets were adequate and designed for NYCO- When did they do
this opera last?
Definitely an enjoyable evening over all. I for one was happy to see Anderson
still holding her own and possibly working on her pitch problems. The
inevitable wobble that comes with age is under control also. There were fewer
pyrotechnics than you'll hear on the Sills recording, more than you'll hear
on the Gencer recording. If your a staunch believer that only Sills and
Callas could sing this music then you should stay home. Since people of my
generation (thirty somethings) haven't had the opportunity to see these
wonderful operas staged, I say go and see it while you can.
Just my humble opinions- I hope others will also comment on this rarely
performed jewel. Pittsburgh is supposed to be expanding their operas from 4
to 6 in the next few seasons. Maybe we'll get the trilogy!!