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Subject: Toledo Opera - a diamond in the rough
From: Kelly Rinne <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sun, 14 Feb 2010 12:33:26 -0500

text/plain (154 lines)

rough only in terms of the slightly sketchy neighborhood I had to drive 
through to get to the Museum.

Last nights' Opera Gala at the Peristyle Theater/Toledo Museum of Art 
was a very strong all-French pastiche program, presented in 2 "acts".

First the house. The Peristyle Theater is inside the Toledo Museum of 
Art, where a HUGE Matisse ceramic wall sculpture greets you just inside 
the door. I really enjoyed walking through parts of the museum to get to 
the theater.
The Peristyle itself really is a faux Greco-Roman style coliseum, about 
800 seats on the main floor, another 400 in the slightly ramped "balcony 
seating" and then a surround of columns, which served as balcony boxes. 
All of it was very open, very wide and had the largest amount of leg 
room in between rows I have ever encountered. Very comfortable, and not 
a bad sightline anywhere, except far right/left against the stage.

The only downside to the venue is the waiting. You wait to park, you 
wait to pick up tickets, you wait for the restrooms - they only have a 
single ticket window, so there was quite a crush to pick up tickets. The 
waiting was offset by the friendliness of everyone I encountered - the 
audience acted as if we were all one big happy concert-going family, 
very refreshing compared to the stand-offishness I usually encounter at 
Orchestra Hall in Detroit. A woman near me in line said it was an honor 
that someone would come down from Detroit to see their symphony/opera. 
Another 2 attendees had driven up from Columbus, which has got to be 
about 2 hours one way.

If you live in Detroit/Ann Arbor and DON'T go to the Toledo Opera, you 
are missing out on a treat.

The orchestra is conducted by Mo. Thomas Conlin, who presents a funny, 
witty presence on the podium - lots of topical humor interjected into 
the program notes/intros, a real effort to make classical music 
relevant, and one that I feel succeeds. That may explain why the makeup 
of the audience had a MUCH larger contingent of 20-50 year olds than 
Detroit does. About 35% of the audience was over 50, and the venue 
seemed to hold about 1100-1200. We even had a baby in the audience, who 
gurgled and seemed to sing along pretty quietly throughout the entire 
concert. (I thought it was great, BTW - get 'em started young)

2 orchestral works started the program - Berlioz' Roman Carnival, and 
the Danse Bacchanale from Samson et Delilah.
I am pretty fussy about horn sections when listening to non-vocal music, 
and was very happy that this was rock solid, with really lovely phrasing 
and a total lack of the bleating you sometimes get from brass. I asked 
the Artistic Director afterwards when S&D would be produced - the 
Maestro really does have a way with the French Rep, and the Saint-Seans 
was the absolute highlight of the first part. Loved loved loved it.

All of Act IV from Carmen closed this first part - it may have been 
nerves, but I found the chorus to have very sloppy diction, the men 
especially, and sibilant esses [sic] were rampant throughout. Kerri 
Marcinko sang the Carmen - her bio (which could use an updated photo) 
says she sang Micaela at NYCO in 2006, and she really should stick to 
that role. Anything low-lying in the tessitura was buried by the 
orchestra, which was also a problem for the Escamillo, Mark McCrory.
The Don Jose was sung by Uruguyan tenor Gaston Rivero, and he really 
shone in everything he sang all evening. I usually am not a tenor-phile, 
so this isn't a case of "he sang high notes - oh yippee". Because 
honestly, nothing he sang called for pyrotechnics in the upper range. 
What is did call for and what was delivered was a seamless vocal line, 
and great phrasing, and his placement has that very forward sound that 
seems to be prevalent in Latin/Spanish singers, which I liked lots.  :)

A really really warm voice. He has sung DJ with the Deutsche Oper Berlin 
and l'Opera de Lausanne, and he also sang Rodolpho in the Luhrmann 
Boheme on Broadway (which I won't hold against him)

Part Two of the program was much stronger then the first, and I liked 
the first part, so...

Ms. Marcinko opened with Depuis le jour from Charpentiers' Louise, and 
it glittered, spun and sat perfectly for her - this is what she should 
sing. If Mike Richter were still on the list, he would remind me that 
Carmen was originally sung by a soprano, but I'm sticking to my guns - 
Ms. Marcinko has a pretty upper register, so she should stay there.

More Bizet next - Au fond du temple saint, which pretty much pleased 
everyone in the audience, but again Mr. McCrory seemed underpowered, so 
the duet sections lacked balance. I would like to hear him in the Toledo 
Operas' smaller venue - what I could hear of his vocal production seemed 
very good, but underpowered.

The Meditation from Thais (with the chorus, which I have never heard 
before, only the instrumental arrangement) was the next piece, and they 
brought out a 15-year old scholarship winner, Thomas Stuart, to play the 
violin solo. He played very sweetly, and it will be a treat to hear him 
in a few years. He gyrates quite a bit while playing, very rock star 
with a violin instead of a microphone.

The program notes indicated that the closing was to be the Intermezzo 
and Prison scene from Act V of Faust, which I have only heard in a 
reduced chamber version without chorus. To hear that entire scene, and 
the angels chorus was MIND-BLOWING.   (caps intentional) Ms. Marcinko 
sang beautifully, as did Mr. Rivero, and at the very end you could hear 
a pin drop - the audience just sat there for a few seconds, letting the 
power of the music work before starting applause.

I wished they had let that be the end of the concert, but an encore was 
provided of the chorus from Orpheus In The Underworld, which was cute 
and frothy as it should be, but really jarred me out of the Gounod like 
getting slapped.

Their next performances are of  Brittens' Rape of Lucretia March 
13th-14th, which they are billing as "Lucretia". Is that a standard 
practice now to truncate the title? I love this work by Britten and it 
is so rarely performed that if you can get there, go see it. It will 
present in their smaller 350-seat venue, which will be perfect for this 
chamber opera.
The cast is:
*Kiera Duffy*, soprano (Lucia) - remember her from the "Audition" PBS 
program a few weeks ago?
*Elizabeth Batton*, mezzo-soprano (Lucretia)
*Margaret Lattimore*, mezzo-soprano (Female Chorus)*
Maria Zifchak*, mezzo-soprano (Bianca)
*Steven Sanders*, tenor (Male Chorus)
*Philip Cutlip*, baritone (Tarquinius)***
Matthew Burns*, bass-baritone (Collatinus)

Michigan/Ohio and Windsor Ontario Canada listers, I'm talking to you!!!!


Kelly Rinne

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