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Subject: Shiner shines in DC debut along with entire Wash Natl Opera Young Artists' ALCINA cast (11-18-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 19 Nov 2017 10:01:28 -0500

text/plain (67 lines)

The penultimate performance of Washington National Opera's Alcina was last night and featured only young artists from the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artsists' Program, now over 15 years in existence. Indeed of the six soloists, five brand new artists this season were making their onstage debuts with the com[any (Ms. Leonard sang offstage in Aida)


Alcina:Alexandria Shiner
Morgana:Madison Leonard
Ruggiero:Allegra De Vita
Bradamante:Eliza Bonet
Melisso:Michael Adams
Oronte:Arnold Geis


Director:Anne Bogart
Conductor:Jane Glover
Set Designer:Neil Patel
Costume Designer:James Schuette
Lighting Designer:Christopher Akerlind
Choreographer:Barney O'Hanlon

I will refrain from repeating my description of the "musical chairs" production which I wrote about two weeks ago and center of the singers themselves. I do need to note that as in many YA performances the audience was chock full of many twenty and thirty-somethings who were most attentive (save for the woman two seats down from me who insisted on crumpling her candy wrapper during the entire second half!). Director of the program, Robert Ainsley, spoke eloquently prior to the curtain explaining that this is an invaluable experience for these singers, and again this season, WNO is giving them the chance to do it twice (Barbiere is May 17, 2018)!

Madison Leonard shone this summer at Wolf Trap in many roles and is a huge addition to the program. As Morgana she gave us luscious da capo moments throughout. From the start I noticed that ALL the singers seemed to be very confident in their roles. I had the pleasure of seeing some of them rehearse and they truly absorbed everything from the production team. Key here was the role interpretation of Ms. Shiner as Alcina; she entered as a queen and died as one at the end. I also adored the puppy-like fawning on her of Ms. De Vita's Ruggiero. Indeed Ms. De Vita, fresh from her success in Xerxes at Glimmerglass, owns this rep and shows it. Her mezzo coloratura is in her blood and her breathing seems to be non-existant especially in the magnificently ornamented da capo sections! She is wonderfully matched by Ms. Bonet who opened with an explosion in "E gelosia" and never gave up. These two mezzos are a perfect pair, and their play on each other was brilliantly superb, at times funny and always impressive. What depth they have in their low notes and what bravura singing and stage presence.

Mr. Geis opened with "Senti cetto a donna credi(?-apologies on any aria errors)" and in his first appearance on stage showed his amazing versatility. Indeed he returns in the spring as Almaviva opposite Ms. De Vita's Rosina, which is bound to be breathtaking.

Ms. Shiner not only acted well, but sang the pants (oh, sorry it's not a trouser role; poor choice of puns) off every aria with a meltingly heartfelt "Si son quella no piu bella" where she professes her faithfulness, but we all know that this woman is no model of fidelity!

Handel is tough and it exposes the singers' weaknesses, but there was not one shred of evidence last night that this entire cast was in charge.Ms. Leonard served up a brilliant "Torna mi a vagheggiar" in a tour de force performance with awesome embellishments in the dacapo section.

Again I am sorry the baritone gets very little, but the one holdover from the main cast was Mr. Adams in a stentorian portrayal of Melisso and his "Pensa a chi geme d'amor piagata" was forceful and well sung at both of the performances I attended.

"Vorrei vinidcarmi" gave Ms. Bonet more magnificent coloratura followed by Ms. De Vita's slower aria sung with such restraint; emotion was evident and played to perfection.

Morgana enters her "upset" state with her plaintive aria ending with a blissful "pace da me," but in this production the first half ends with Alcina's "Ah, mio cor" and we all go to the break remembering these blissful moments, even if in the dumps.

Ms. Geis; gets much more in the second half starting with "Un folle et un vile affetto..." where she really shows off his coloratura scattered with some stunning high notes. Ms. De Vita brings us back to earth with "Verdi prati..." again exemplified by such restraint and Ms. Shiner indeed shines with "Ombre pallide."

Morgana's cheery disposition is further dispelled in "Credete al mio dolore" sung to Oronte begging him to come back to her and he responds with "Un momento di contento." It is just more and more gorgeous singing that never seems to end.

Alcina's demise is with "Ma quando tornera" and then Ms. De Vita shoots off thrilling notes on her final "cacciatore." before the three women join for the finale trio, "Non e amore ne gelosia."

Again, I was waiting for that white "power" globe of Alcina's to burst or get shot open by Ruggiero; no luck again. But what a buzz from such amazing young talent, many of whom have only been here for just over two months! That's a major accomplishment.

Many of them return with others in the program for "The Little Price" next month and the American Opera Initiative in January featuring four world premiere works! How lucky we in DC are!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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