"Il sacro vischio a mietere Norma verrà?"
Monday October 28th, 2012 - Angela Meade is one of the most talked-about sopranos in New York City these days. Having not - to date - been really impressed by the performances of her's that I have seen, I was still curious to hear (though not to see) her Norma, so a score desk was the place for me tonight.
In a Met ERNANI, I felt Meade's voice un-sorted and a bit shy of the needed power (she had no help from the conductor in that regard); in Rossini's MOISE ER PHARAON at Carnegie Hall she sang quite beautifully. As Leonora in a Met TROVATORE, the soprano had some lovely turns of phrase and vocal effects, but was dramatically nil, especially when she got down on the floor in the duet with di Luna and floundered around, provoking titters from those around me. Her Bellini Beatrice di Tenda at Carnegie was mostly attractively sung - though somewhat tremulous of tone and a bit under-powered in places - but a breach of stage etiquette near the end of the first half dissolved any atmosphere that had been created, and we headed for the exit as soon as the act ended, while a woman seated behind us hauled out her cellphone to tell someone: "This Angela Meade is sensational, she's so much better than Joan Sutherland!"
So we come to Norma, a daunting role under any circumstances; having just seen Sondra Radvanovsky give a very impressive performance of the role, I approached this evening with mixed expectations, hoping Ms. Meade would come thru with flying colours.
Meade commenced with an authoritative rendering of Norma's opening recitative "Sediziose voci..."; the voice was ample, and her pacing and use of words marked a fine start to this arduous role. But in the "Casta diva" the innate flutter in Meade's tone began to intrude on my enjoyment of her singing. This is simply the nature of her voice, not really a technical flaw, and you are either going to like it or not. For me, it became increasingly irritating as the first act of the opera progressed.
Aside from some smudgy fiorature here and there, Meade had all the notes well in hand. Her use of pianissimo in the high register is so frequent that it's predictable, however attractive the effect might be. In the scene and duet with Adalgisa, Meade had many lovely passages but the flutter (there is no other word for it) in her voice undid any pleasure I was deriving from the evening. As the act surged towards its conclusion, the cognoscenti were expecting a high-D from the soprano; when it didn't materilaize, at least one famous fan showed his disappointment by gesticulating wildly. I could almost hear him saying 'Phooey!'
Jamie Barton's been in the news lately as winner of both the opera and lieder prizes at this year's Cardiff Singer of the World competition. It's a fine instrument, clear and warm and even, though as yet not a truly individual sound; one might be tempted to say it's a baby-Horne voice. She sang very well and was clearly the audience favorite tonight; we'll see how she develops in terms of distinctiveness. I sense a bit of tension in her upper register but otherwise the instrument seems very well-placed. The news that she's going to sing Fricka feels a bit premature (RHEINGOLD, fine; WALKURE, probably not a great idea at this point) but hopefully she'll stay on a steady course: it should be a long and interesting career.
Aleksandrs Antonenko seemed in better voice than in the earlier performance I saw (with Radvanovsky) and he tackled and sustained the written high-C in his aria, not prettily but emphatically. James Morris was a bit below his current best form but still held up his corner of the vocal quartet well enough. The orchestra and chorus seemed to thrive under Maestro Frizza, who was very supportive of his principal singers.
I left at intermission, knowing now that there's no real need for me to attend future Angela Meade performances, unless she just happens to be singing on a night I am going. She has plenty of admirers to sustain her, come what may.
October 28, 2013