Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Vivaldi's "Griselda" Opens at the Santa Fe Opera

Leonard and Abrams
(Photo: Ken Howard)
"...countertenor Yuri Minenko, who portrayed this 'man in the middle' counselor, was the only person in the cast who combined elegant, agile vocalism with a sense of period musical style. His voice is small but handsome, his technique immaculate. He projects just enough to be heard clearly, but he demands that listeners give him their complete attention. In a production in which most of the characters flounced about with awkwardness that could border on the irrational, Minenko maintained a dignified bearing even while wearing what came close to a pastel green leisure suit. The opening night's other countertenor was Jason Abrams (in his house début), the understudy for David Daniels, who called in sick. He held up his own in the role of Roberto (part of a love-interest subplot), and his attractive voice may earn him continuing plaudits as he addresses some inconsistencies that have not yet been worked out of his vocal production at this emergent moment of his career. As Ottone (who lusts after Griselda), soprano Amanda Majeski was made to run around dressed like an MTV award presenter. Her shrill timbre was not unsuited to her aria 'Scocca dardi,' which describes how Griselda's eyes throw darts into her soul, but in other contexts her tone seemed less apposite and her precisely notated arpeggios were the stuff of approximation. Some fine singing arrived via Isabel Leonard, a mezzo-soprano rising fast in the world of lyric theater. Nonetheless, she did not seem well suited to her role of Costanza, whom Gualtiero pretends he will marry, though he knows
(as she does not) that she is his and Griselda's long-concealed daughter. She boasts a lovely voice that displayed admirable amplitude when she spun out the finely crafted lines of her aria 'Ombre vane,' and she kept a firm beat even at fast tempos (not a given in this cast). To her fell the work's most famous aria, 'Agitata da due venti,' fearsome in its dazzling coloratura and spitfire repeated attacks, the former delivered capably, the latter somewhat glossed over. One sensed an excellent singer in the wrong role, a description that carries over to the tenor Paul Groves, as Gualtiero, whose lunging for notes yielded unconvincing results and whose ornamentation in the da capos came from who knows what universe — perhaps from the same realm of indistinct romanticism that fueled his interpretation of recitative. At the center of the action was contralto
Majeski and Groves
(Photo: Ken Howard)
Meredith Arwady as Griselda, whose uncentered pitches, swallowed diction and graceless stage deportment rendered her casting incomprehensible. Her only tolerable singing came near the end, when Sellars bizarrely replaced an aria Vivaldi wrote with the opening of his Stabat Mater, composed in a distinctly different style — a substitution that I suspect might have been illegal in Vivaldi's Venice. Grant Gershon's conducting was supportive of the singers; like most of them, he seemed several decades behind the times in conveying what we surmise about period style. Sellars' staging was heavy on such overused directorial devices as secret service agents and many, many guns, which characters pointed here and there without seeming much committed to them. The blocking could descend to rudeness, as when characters were made to upstage colleagues' arias by walking between the singer and the audience. The cast rolled about on the floor more than you might think necessary." [Source]

1 comment:

  1. I witnessed this last night - it was horrible - from set to staging, lighting and costumes - a disaster.

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