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Subject: Re: OPERA-L Digest - 25 Feb 2003 - Special issue (#2003-355)
From: ariane comstock <[log in to unmask]>
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Date:Wed, 26 Feb 2003 09:51:30 -0500
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Since no one else has reported on the Palm Beach Opera performances of
"The Tales of Hoffmann", I suppose I shall have to do so -- only because
my mind, ears and eyes are so full of amazement at the young talent that
abounds today.  Audiences may not be going to opera, but singers with
gorgeous voices, fine technique, musicality and physical beauty seem to
flow from the heavens.  With such performances as this, brilliantly
staged by Bernard Uzan and vibrantly conducted by the ever-youthful
Julius Rudel, it is difficult to understand how audiences cannot be
seduced.
There was a double cast; my tickets were for opening night, but others
tell me the second cast was equally fine, especially Benge Mayone as
Olympia.
One by one, in the performance I attended, Stephen Mark Brown has not
the most pleasing timbre, but his technique is securely at the service
of his interpretation; he gave us a believable and sympathetic Hoffmann.
His evil genius was Giorgio Surian, with a rich voice and stunning
interpretive powers.  Hoffmann's women always steal the show, and this
production was no exception.  Katheryn Friest began the show as the
Muse/Nicklausse (combined in this production), with a big, appealing
voice and presence to match.  A good doll always steals the show, and
Luz del Alba Rubio milked it to the hilt, with memorable charm,
stratospheric notes and impressive balletic skills.  Next came Antonia -
a sequence which I deplore, since it leaves poor Hoffmann cynically
indulging in debauchery, instead of progressing from idealism (the Doll)
through sensuality (Giulietta) to artistry (Antonia). And the power of
the trio makes the Venice act anticlimactic.
But I digress.  Antonia was another beauty, Melissa Kaye Shippen, who
also possessed the beauty of voice and technique which the role
requires.  Finally, mezzo Kate Aldrich (doubling as Antonia's mother)
gave us a full-voiced Giulietta of the requisite physical charm,
although she might make a better Girl of the Golden West than courtesan.
Adding immensely to the overall effect was Dean Anthony, more dancer
than singer, who capered about in a wondrously grotesque manner,
reminding us that E.T.A. Hoffmann was, after all, famous for such
characters.
The under-sized sets and some of the Malabar costumes (usually so
elegant) were the only slight signs that this was not an international
Festival performance.
Ariane Csonka Comstock

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