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Subject: La Cenerentola at Arizona Opera
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 8 Apr 2017 09:59:16 -0700
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Arizona Opera presented their last opera of the season - not the last
performance, there are two more, one tonight and tomorrow's matinee.  It
was Rossini's delightful romp La Cenerentola.  I have never been much for
comic opera but it has grown on me and there is no one like Rossini.
Beethoven approved so that's just fine with me.  I am not all there yet, I
still believe Papageno and Papagena are perfect poster children for
euthanasia.

This is really a masterpiece.  From beginning to end it has everything,
music, charm, fun, laughs, pathos and those incredible Rossini basso buffo
characters, tonight the very funny and very well sung Don Magnifico of
Stefano de Peppo.

It was a simple production unit set that got pushed from the sides and
turned around as needed.  Very effective, worked well.  Direction by
Crystal Manich was excellent.  This was her AZ Opera debut.  I like a
director who doesn't feel the need to primp things up and take away from
the opera with unnecessary gratuitous movements and machinations,
especially in a comic opera.  Nothing was over done, everyone was where
they had to be, doing what they had to do, and nothing at all interfered
with or took away from Rossini's masterful score and the plight of the
sweet but plucky Angelina.

This brings me to Daniela Mack, for me, a real discovery.  I had heard her
at the Met earlier this season in Rusalka as the kitchen boy.  She was cute
and sang well but here she was in her element.  This Angelina, clearly a
relative of Rosina, was no shrinking violet.  She had strength and
character but the sweetness and goodness of the character was always
evident, both in the music and in her portrayal.  Add to this, a beautiful
dark, multicolored voice.  Easy in the coloratura, even top to bottom,
never overdone or pushed.  The top rang out beautifully.  She is a real
find and I hope to encounter her more often in major roles.  I will
certainly try to hear her in Alcina this summer in Santa Fe and time one of
my Philadelphia trips to see the family with her Carmen there next spring.
As her sniveling, bitchy sisters, we had a real pair in Katrina Galka as
Clorinda and Marya Kaganskaya as Tisbe.  I really can't tell you which one
was funnier, they both has me in stitches.  They also sang well, especially
Clorinda as she has the aria.  Fun, fun, fun.  At the end, you really
wanted Angelina to give both of them a big kick in the ass.

Alex Shrader, her real life husband, was the Ramiro.  It was great to see
the chemistry between them.  He sang well, its a good tenor that I think
might be at the point of moving on beyond the Rossini leggiero roles.  At
least last night, the top could be a bit tight.  He hit all the notes, but
without the fullness and rich quality he has in the middle.  A good looking
guy, he looked terrific both as the Prince and in disguise as Dandini,
which brings me to Joseph Lattanzi, one of the Marion Roose Pullin Arizona
Opera Studio Artists.  He was terrific.  I saw him last year as Don
Giovanni and he has a smooth, beautiful voice and a great presence and
comic timing.  He and Shrader works well together in their constantly
changing roles.  It doesn't hurt that Dandini is young and handsome like
the Prince he impersonates - this doesn't always happen in the big houses.
Sometimes a smaller company that has to use young artists just starting out
has its rewards.  Zachary Owen was the Alidoro.  My only complaint with him
was that there was no way to disguise that he's a baby - the tutor looks
like the slightly younger brother of his pupil.  No matter, good
performance by a young artist.  Then there was Stefano de Peppo.  I love
his Don Magnifico.  I grew up on Fernando Corena in the late 60's and
70's.  Its nice to see the tradition is not dead and of course, his
handling of the Italian language was a joy to hear...

Dean Williamson had everything under control in the pit.  Arizona Opera has
a pretty decent orchestra.  Earlier in the season they had no problem with
the powerful writing of Dvorak in Rusalka and Rossini's scintillating score
emerged in good form.  I assume the orchestra has an assortment of players
from the Phoenix Symphony and a smattering of teachers from the music
school at ASU.

I hope I haven't left anyone out.  Kathleen Trott provided the simple but
apropos costumes and Gregory Allen Hirsch was the lighting designer.  He
did a good job as he did earlier in the season with Madama Butterfly.  The
Chorus Master of AZ Opera is Henri Venanzi.  Did I miss anyone?  If I did,
I apologize in advance.

Arizona Opera has a small but active young artists program, the Marion
Roose Pullin Young Artists Program.  All the singers get to perform in all
mainstage productions, often in leading roles and of course cover.  Tonight
the alternate cast features Studio Artist and wonderful young mezzo Alyssa
Martin as Cenerentola opposite the Ramino of Andrew Owens (not a studio
artist).  Four of tonights principals were from the Young Artist program.
When not involved in the big productions, they do concerts, workshops and
community outreach in the schools. Its like a mini Lindemann, Merola and
Ryan.

I had a great time.  When I moved out to Arizona I thought I'd really be in
the middle of the desert.  I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised to
find a community that takes the arts seriously and that there were so many
things going on both in Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Scottsdale
and Mesa.  I'm from New Yawk and of course, it ain't NYC (nothing is) but
it has its charms, not the least is the gorgeous weather from November
through May and the incredible scenery throughout the state.  I drive an
hour from my house and I am in the Mogollon Rim, the lower edge of the
Colorado Plateau, 5000-8000 feet high, pine forests and snow in the
winter.  Who'da thunk?

In May I'm back home in Manhattan for a few weeks.  I will be judging the
Giulio Gari Foundation Competition from May 15-19 and seeing Fliegende
Hollander at the Met on May 12.  I'm trying to get into Renee's Marschallin
on the 13th.  If I can't, I will see it in the movies.

I can't believe I've done such a long posting, that's not me but I had a
great time.

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