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Subject: Beethoven's LEONORE leaves us breathless in DC premiere by Washington Concert Opera(3-5-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 7 Mar 2017 11:28:19 -0500

text/plain (61 lines)

Washington Concert Opera had yet another success ending its 30th season with the Washington premiere of Beethoven's Leonore, the ill-fated predecessor to his one opera success, Fidelio.

Leonore-Marjorie Owens

Florestan-Simon O'Neill

Rocco-Eric Halfvarson

Don Pizarro-Alan Held

Marzelline-Celena Shafer

Jaquino/Frist Prisoner-Jonas Hacker

Don Fernando/Second Prisoner-Nicholas Masters

Conductor-Antony Walker

Chorus Master-Bruce Stasnya

Of note is that this rare treat was recorded by WETA our local NPR/PBS radio station for later broadcast!!

The opera starts off with the bubbly aria of Marzelline and Celena Shafer was just that (although Ms. Midgette thought it was overdone) and it was indeed a perfect portrayal of a silly young girl who really is lovestruck. Her Jaquino, Mr. Hacker, retruned to WCO for the second time in a larger role which really showed off his tenor so well; both these characters were so well portrayed that I really missed the fact that this opera does not end with them being together as Fidelio does(that's one of the major differences, there are lots of others!). I have known Mr. Halfvarson for many decades and while it was announced he was feeling unwell, his performance showed nothing of the kind. He always excels whether in this or Fidelio or whatever he is singing. His gold aria was simply superb.

Mr. Held returned to DC after his huge success as Wotan in last years WNO Ring and is always a favorite in town since his days so many years ago at Wolf Trap. His vengeance aria "Ha! Welch ein Augenblich" starts Act II, but there was no break so indeed this really resembled the break in Fidelio almost the same. He is joined by his guards for a really wonderful "Der Rache" ensemble and then the two women have a gorgeous duet on marriage.

Ms. Owens, having lost much weight, looked absolutely spectacular and her voice matched with such great depth for this heroine willing to give her life.  She remains for the magnificent "Komm, Hoffnung..." which had the audience in a complete frenzy of massive applause.

As in Fidelio we have the excellent Prisoners' Chorus for which the men came to the front of the stage for extra effect and they really made a gem of this special piece.  The act ends with Pizarro in yet another rage at the prisoners being released.

Act III (second half) like Fidelio, starts with "Gott! welch' Dunkel hier!" and its gorgeous prelude which Maestro Walker lovingly delivered. Mr. O'Neill was in brilliant form sounding like a true heldentenor giving me tingles as he hit his high notes.  It is very different from Fidelio in that it does not have the same grand ending.

For some reason the Gravedigging Duet seems shorter here and we got to the gutsy trio. Pizarro arrives in another rage and Mr. Held's booming baritone reeked of evil in his confrontation of the others., only to be subdued by Leonore.

The gorgeous soprano-tenor duet is very similar to Fidelio and got its deserved ovation as these two singers truly delivered the goods.

Marzelline  enters, but in this version does not seem shocked to discover Fidelio is a woman and ultimately Jaquino also joins them and does not end up going off with her.

Florestan & Leonore ask for mercy for Pizarro and the finale chorus with soloists, "Wer ein holdes Weib errungen..." ends the work as the men and womens' chorus again came to the front of the stage with the sextet. While this was indeed mostly choral, Ms. Owens did get one last blast of a high note at the very end sending us home very elated for sure.

WCO announced it 31st season as well with Bellini's La straniera in November 2017 and Donizetti's Maria di Rohan in February 2018....keep your eyes open for the exact dates.

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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