By Lew Loesberg
RUSSIAN OPERA WORKSHOP 2018 opened its 3-performance run of "Князь Игорь" last night. Except for the Polovtsian Dances and choral sequences, the production eschewed pageantry to focus on the intimate emotional ramifications of familial love and conjugal fidelity tested by war, duty, honor, separation, loneliness and loss of freedom.
The usual hero of ROW evenings, Maestro GHENA MEIRSON, who had a serendipitous opportunity for virtuosic keyboard playing in the Polovtsian scenes, was joined by an adjunct heroic force in voice and demeanor, Kavalierbariton TIMOTHY RENNER, in the interest of full disclosure, the raison d'être of my attendance. I had been looking forward to Tim's assumption of Игорь Святъславичь ever since I learned of his participation in this summer's program, having admired his mastery of such disparate composition personalities as those of Verdi, Strauss, Wagner and Rubinstein. Indeed, in the Borodin, if Ghena was the heart, Tim was the soul. His voice sounded huge, full, dark-hued, even-scaled from easy top to resonant middle to solid bottom, authoritative. Igor's aria, "Ни сна, ни отдыха измученной душе", was - as it should be - the grand solo centerpiece of the evening. The baritone, moreover, used his expressive dark eyes as acting tools, windows, as it were, into Igor's ethos.
One of Sweden's summer gifts to Philly, LOVISA SANDENSKOG, in the plaintive music of Yaroslavna, had the uncanny ability to sound exactly like the Soviet sopranos I listened to in my youth, when I first discovered Borodin's opera: Панова, Смоленская, Тугаринова, and the Serbian Heybalova. I especially loved Lovisa's russo-echt penetrating top (the C on "Прощaaaaaaaaaaaай!" in the Prolog, the octave leap up to high B at the end of the Lament, "Зачeeeeeeeeем!").
SAMANTHA LUNA sang the key mezzo role of Konchakovna one day after being "diagnosed" as a soprano by Angela Meade! In the event, Samantha's luscious middle range, easy top and sonorous low notes provided many pleasures as Khan Konchak's daughter.
The Khan himself, ROBERT ELLSWORTH FENG, revealed and revelled in a charismatic lyric bass; Galitsky, MICHAEL TALLINO-SMITH, made the most of his lively solo; NOAH DONAHUE handily encompassed the extremes of Vladimir's vocal lines; ERIN SCHMURA, sang the Polovtsian Maiden's melismas with aplomb; CASSIDY DIXON made an effective Nurse; WESTLEY MONTGOMERY, RICARDO GARCIA, and RANDY WESTMORELAND provided stalwart tenorial support to their respective leaders. Special accolades to the "chorus", expertly prepared and trained, who sang the most well-known melodies of the score as if it were second nature.
For Thursday evening's show, Tim switches to Galitsky, and the sensational Swedish mezzo discovery of the session, MATHILDA BRYNGELSSON, whose voice reminds me of the young Kerstin Meyer, performs Konchakovna. Since ANGELA MEADE's Master Class, I've been having recurrent dreams about Mathilda channeling vocal intensity into Charlotte, Ratmir, Vanya, Lyubasha, Komponist, Orfeo ...
Reposted from LOVEIT - Lew's Opera Views and Experiences In Tempo
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