Above: Loch Katrine, Scotland - the setting of LA DONNA DEL LAGO
Saturday February 28th, 2015 matinee - This performance of Rossini's LA DONNA DEL LAGO was a late addition to my opera plans for the season. The Rossini repertory no longer interests me much, but I thought it might be good to experience one of his operas again in-house, and I've always liked Juan Diego Florez, so...why not?
Back in 1982, I heard Rossini's LA DONNA DEL LAGO in a concert performance at Carnegie Hall; the principal roles were taken by Frederica von Stade, Marilyn Horne, Rockwell Blake, and Dano Raffanti. It was quite a night. Then in 2007, the New York City Opera staged it with a cast that included fine performances by mezzo-soprano Laura Vlasak Nolen, and tenors Barry Banks and Robert McPherson.
After taking some cuts in the prelude, conductor Michele Mariotti rushed the opening chorus with some resulting disunity. Someone tried to start entrance applause for Joyce DiDonato, but it didn't catch on; it might have been the same person who tried to get some applause going after her opening aria, but he ended up with three solo hand-claps.
It seemed to me today that Elena (the opera's eponymous heroine and triple love-interest) suits Ms. DiDonato much better than Donizetti's Maria Stuarda did. She did some genuinely lovely singing - with persuasive coloratura - along the way; a slight flutter in her timbre at low-to-mid volume sometimes intrudes on complete enjoyment of her singing. But overall this is a fine role for her.
Juan Diego Florez sang with his usual fluency and expressiveness, tossing off added high notes and blending beautifully with Ms. DiDonato. Fleeting traces of sharpness in the tenor's singing didn't detract from the overall handsomeness of his vocalism, I should have stayed to hear the luminous aria "O fiamma soave" in Act II, but I didn't.
I can recall the favorable impression Daniela Barcellona made singing Maddalena in RIGOLETTO at a special all-Verdi concert performance which The Met offered on September 22, 2001, as a benefit for the families of 9/11 first responders. She subsequently sang Bellini's Adalgisa twice at The Met (also in 2001), and has since had an extensive career in Europe. Her return to The Met as Rossini's Malcolm Groeme was a main factor in my decision to go to today's matinee, but alas her voice now shows a widening vibrato - and a quick look at her bio shows the telltale reasons: Amneris and Santuzza are not roles one would think of for her type of voice, and once ventured it is not easy to switch back to bel canto. She had some beautiful low notes today, and managed the coloratura quite well. But sustained notes revealed an unsteady quality.
John Osborn (Rodrigo di Dhu) pricked up our ears and perked up the performance with his powerful forays to the top register and the overall conviction of his singing. It is not the most ingratiating tenor sound you will hear, but he knows what to do with it in this demanding music, Oren Gradus, though not a bel canto specialist, did what he could with the role of Duglas D'Angus.
Musically, the opera moves in fits and starts. A ravishing melody or brilliant passages of fiorature will be followed by rum-ti-tum filler. Rossini's idea of introducing a solo harp into the Act I finale stirs our interest, but the vocal melody that follows in pedestrian. This is followed by a jog-trot stretta to end the act.
It it hadn't been for the looming Gelb intermission, I would most likely have stayed on to hear that Florez cavatina in Act II. The house was reasonably full and very attentive, but I did notice several fellow-defectors after the first act.
Metropolitan Opera House
February 28, 2015 Matinee
LA DONNA DEL LAGO
Giacomo V/Uberto........Juan Diego Flórez
Malcolm Groeme..........Daniela Barcellona
Rodrigo Di Dhu..........John Osborn