Opera at Grant Park Music Festival

Carlos Kalmar conducted the Grant Park
Orchestra in selections by Mozart, Donizetti, and Rossini. Commentary was
provided by Jack Zimmerman as narrator.

The first selection was Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, or
The Impessario. Since this one-act piece allows for both solo and
ensemble singing by the four soloists, it proved to be an appropriate
introduction to the evening. The rival sopranos Madame Goldentrill and Miss
Silverpeal were sung, respectively, by Kiri Deonarine and Emily Birsan. Mr.
Angel the Impressario and Mr. Bluff were sung by Bernard Holcomb and Joseph
Lim. After settling into the overture Calmar encouraged orchestral colors
especially in the woodwinds, so that the concept of subsequent vocal pieces was
truly prefigured. Mr. Zimmerman’s versified summaries and comments
propelled the piece toward the two arias sung by the sopranos. As Mme.
Goldentrill Ms. Deonarine projected a secure vocal technique with an especially
vivid effect on “Du kannst gewiss nich treulos sein” (“Surely
you cannot be unfaithful”). Her rapid passagework was equally
accomplished with top notes securely placed. Ms. Birsan sang with matching
confidence yet perhaps with a shade more volume than needed in some of the
rising lines. In the following trio both women overwhelmed Mr. Holcomb’s
character as he tried to settle their dispute. Here Ms. Deonarine’s rise
to high ntes on the word “Adagio” showed a sound technique and
steady control of pitch. The entry of Mr. Bluff and the accompanying final
ensemble provided opportunities for the four soloists to extend their pleas.
Mr. Lim’s polished sense of line and his musical play on Buff and O
showed him to be a worthy partner in the vocal dispute that ends with
“K¸nstler m¸ssen freilich streben” (“Artists must always

The second selection of the evening, Act Two of Donizetti’s Don
Pasquale, featured excellent contributions by Jennifer Jakob as Norina, Paul La
rosa as Malatesta, and David Govertsen as Don Pasquale. At the start of the act
RenÈ Barbera made a worthy showpiece of the nephew’s aria, “Povero
Ernesto!” (“Poor Ernesto!”). His seamless range, high notes,
and occasional use of piano (e.g. in “nË frapposti monti e
mar” [“nor seas and mountains in between”]) were a welcome
contribution to the overall shape of the aria. The singing of bass-baritone
David Govertsen in the role of Don Pasquale, with an impressive bel
technique extending to his lowest range, provided consistent stylish
character to the title role. The Norina of Ms. Jakob was alternately
understated and petulant, as expected in her variable persona, throughout the
act. Her diction was accurate and she shaded her voice subtlety on words such
as giovane (“young woman”) to emphasize the word’s
import. In bel canto ensembles and in her individual decoration Ms.
Jakob gave the impression of inhabiting the role comfortably. Mr. La
Rosa’s sonorous baritone was an equally welcome voice in ensembles yet
also in the delivery of individual parts in recitative. The line “
… un matrimonio in regula a stringere si va” (“a lawful
marriage will herewith be contracted”) was released with deeply felt
legato, while La Rosa launched with skilled decoration into the part
“Ah! Figliuol, non mi far scene” (“Oh, my son, don’t
make a scene”).

In the final selection, Act Two of Rossini’s La cenerentola,
Emily Fons gave an exceptional performance as Angelina, the Cinderella of the
title. Don Magnifico, sung here with rapid understatement by Evan Boyer,
introduced in the first scene the continuing domestic and royal
misunderstandings. In the following scene the remaining principals were
introduced. James Kryschak sang Don Ramiro’s aria with the expected poise
of a Rossini tenor, although some of the top notes were overly loud. Paul
Scholten’s approach to Dandini in solo pieces and his duet with Don
Magnifico was tasteful in his buffo lines and seamless in his well
enunciated runs. Mr. Govertsen’s Alidoro made a strong impression with
the hope for an assumption of the complete role in the future. It is in the
fourth and fifth scenes and in the finale to Act Two that the mezzo role of
Angelina truly rises to vocal splendor. Ms. Fons displayed a mature and focused
line in her wistful rendering of “Una volta c’era un re”
(“Once upon a time there was a king”). In the following scene of
recognition, with identities and affections finally sorted out, the sextet was
noteworthy for individual and ensemble contributions. For the finale, the title
character’s arias “Nacqui all’ affanno” and “Non
pi˘ mesta” were, in the memorable performance of Ms. Fons, models of
bel canto singing recalling an earlier time. In the first aria she
introduced appropriate decoration on “la sorte mia” (“my
lot”) and ended the line on “cangiÚ” (“has
changed”) with an exquisite trill. Several of the escape tones and other
fitting ornamentation included in her polished rendition of “Non pi˘
mesta” enhanced a performance of future great promise.

Salvatore Calomino

image_description=W. A. Mozart by Johann Nepomuk della Croce (1736-1819) [Source: Wikipedia]
product_title=Ryan Opera Center: Scenes from Donizetti, Mozart & Rossini
product_by=Click here for program notes.
product_id=Above: W. A. Mozart by Johann Nepomuk della Croce (1736-1819) [Source: Wikipedia]