I, too, was at the Blake recital in Washington and thought he was wonderful.
I had last seen him in Vienna two years ago in "Barbiere" and I noticed then
that he had obviously been working on improving his vocal "color" in order
to escape all the complaints that he was technically accomplished but
unpleasant to listen to. He was quite impressive in the recital in terms of
his breath control and technical facility and, despite having to deal with a
recurring "frog" in his throat, managed to "sweeten" his sound significantly.
As to the idea that he can be compared to Chris Merritt (in a less than
flattering way), that strikes me as a decidedly different matter. For one
thing, though they both sing some Rossini, that is where the comparison
ends. I have heard Blake in "Donna del Lago" and Rossini's "Otello," (as
well as "Barbiere") and he was outstanding. But in "Otello" he was in a
secondary role to Merritt's Otello because his voice does not embrace that
leading role. He certainly is no Arnold in "Guillaume Tell" and cannot touch
many of the other Rossini roles Merritt has done. That is not to diminish
his stature--it is simply that he has a different, much lighter voice and
does not have the varied repertoire that Merritt does ("Vespri," "Moses und
Aron," "Elisir," "Boheme," "Freischutz," "Trovatore," etc.).
Why is it so hard for many of us to just appreciate people for who and what
they are rather than seek to compare them invidiously with others? I don't
care if Schipa's voice was 1/3 as powerful as Corelli's--I still like them both.
Rabbi Mark Loeb, Baltimore