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Subject: A Puritani report from the opening
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:19:03 +0000

text/plain (48 lines)

FEBRUARY 10, 2017

There is nothing like a revival with a pair of bel canto specialists, one at the top of his form, to breathe life into the dusty, stolid Sandro Sequi 40+ year-old production of Bellini's "I Puritani" which opened Friday night at the Met. Aided by a solid, if less than ideal, supporting cast, this is one of the strongest revivals of the season to date.  The quaint, painterly sets by Ming Cho Lee, consisting mostly of stone arches, stairways and plazas are elevated to an arena for vocal fireworks on this occasion by the golden age singing of Javier Camarena and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Diana Damrau.

Camarena sang Arturo with exceptional style and dynamic shading all evening.  His sweet, honeyed tenor was deployed intelligently and he consistently displayed the virtue of singing softly for dramatic effect. His high notes rang-out with house-filling ease beginning with an "A te, o cara" that was a model of bel canto elegance and refinement.

Diana Damrau started the evening tentatively.  In Act 1 her tone sounded covered, and she seemed tired after her recent month-long run as Juliette.  As it turns out, she had not sung the Dress, and now we know that she will not sing this evening's performance, so clearly she was already suffering some indisposition on Friday. That said, by Act 2, when she emerged for "Qui la voce and Vien, diletto" her voice blossomed and sparkled in a mostly solid account of Elvira's descent into madness.  Her dramatic, girlish conviction went a long way to compensate for any vocal compromises on this occasion.

In Act 3 the two principals, seemed inspired to attain further heights in their dramatic duet.  Mr. Camerena was at his considerable best in the lyrical plaints and bravura displays assigned to Arturo in this act. The much-discussed eruption from the audience member chastising him for not singing the high-F in his aria seemed wholly uncalled for.

Alexey Markov's sang the dour, brooding Riccardo with a mellow, sonorous baritone, in tones almost too sympathetic for the character. Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, as her uncle Giorgio, has a clear, focused bass that is hardly stentorian.  His voice, at least a size too small for the Met in this role, came off to much better effect in the gentle, lyrical "Cinta di fiori" than it did in the rousing "Suoni la tromba" duet with Ricardo.  He failed to deliver the necessary vocal contrast with Riccardo and it sounded on this occasion more like a duet for two baritones.  Without the emphasis from the deeper bass line some of the martial gravity of the moment is lost.

The supporting cast, including a memorable contribution from mezzo Virginie Verrez as Enrichetta, provided solid support.

Maurizio Benini led the Met orchestra and chorus in a fleet account of the score that was occasionally sloppy. The singer's sometimes seemed to be having a bit of trouble keeping up with him.

And, unusual for the Met these days, only the four principals took bows.  No bows for the supporting cast in smaller roles, or for the chorus.

All in all, with a quartet of talented lead singers, led by the estimable Mr. Camarena, this was a night to celebrate Bellini, bel canto and the best of what opera can be.


Russell G. Volpe, DPM
Department of Orthopedics and Pediatrics
New York College of Podiatric Medicine
Foot Clinics of New York
53-55 East 124th Street
New York, New York 10035
phone: 212 410 8129
fax; 212 410 8440

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