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Subject: Rusalka at the Arizona Opera (and Jamie Barton)
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 12 Nov 2016 10:41:21 -0700
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Last night I saw a very fine performance of Rusalka at the Arizona Opera in
Phoenix.  At first, I wondered how they would carry off such a work -
visually and musically.  Not to worry.  The young cast was first rate, the
unit sets were simple but effective, the lighting atmospheric and the
direction simple and to the point.  No special effects were tried and
everything went off without a hitch.  They worked very well with what they
had both materially and budget wise.  Stage direction under Joshua Borths
was effective.  The whole creative team did a good job.

Rusalka is not an easy work to carry off.  The basis of course is Hans
Christian Anderson and as such, its a dark fantasy world.  Not your basic
Disney.  It is gloomy and at times nasty, ending with Rusalka's mini
Liebestod over the body of her prince.  I don't know why, but at times it
reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.  Its amazing how children's stories and
fairy tales can be so dark and downright weird.  Thing of Hansel und
Gretel.  Another work that appears simple but is so difficult to bring off.


Sara Gartland was a lustrous, beautiful Rusalka.  The 2nd act is so
difficult to pull off and she did it.  Her Song to the Moon was beautifully
done and she nailed the last act.  A very good performance.  My Rusalka's
include the magnificent Gabriela Benackova and of course, Renee Fleming and
Ana Maria Martinez.

Danish tenor David Danholt sang well as the prince.  He tired a bit at the
very end but this is a very difficult role.  It requires a hefty voice that
can surmount a Wagnerian orchestration and sing softly and romantically.
Likewise, soprano Alexandra Loutsion was well cast as the Foreign
Princess.  This role is non-stop emoting and requires a dramatic
instrument.  She is a hard bitch and Loutsion brought it off.  Mezzo Daveda
Karanas, who I had previously heard as Kundry in Chicago was a terrific
Jezibaba.  Maybe not erasing memories of Dolora Zajick (one of her most
memorable portrayals) or Stefania Toczyska.  Finally, we had veteran
Richard Paul Fink as the Vodnik.  A touching and well sung performance by
him.

The Arizona Opera Orchestra handled this difficult score well, a few
stumbles aside and they were very well led by Steven White.

It was a fine evening in Phoenix.  I wish Joseph Specter, the new General
Director of the Arizona Opera well.  He has a good company with many ardent
fans in the Phoenix area.  Next peformance is I believe Madama Butterly in
February.

Oh, one final note, not to waste a post.  Driving home to my house on the
hill (Fountain Hills), I listened to Jamie Barton's new CD, All Who Wander
with the superb Brian Zeger at the Piano.  Run, do not walk, run (or as we
do it today - Amazon Prime) and get this CD.  Mahler, Dvorak and Sibelius.
Such gorgeous singing hasn't been heard in eons.  It is the most beautiful
mezzo voice since the great Christa Ludwig.  Jamie, I love you!!!

Donald

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