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Opera New Jersey
Strauss and Dávila in Opera New Jersey’s Trovatore
© Jeff Reeder 2012
Opera New Jersey’s 2012 summer season included H.M.S. Pinafore and Il Trovatore. July 22’s matinée of Verdi’s supremely tuneful work left one in admiration that a small regional festival could assemble so musically satisfactory a performance of a work that often stumps so many major international companies. The cast was not the proverbial “four best singers in the world” (it should be five, as Ferrando needs an agile, high-quality bass — and got one here in Young Bok Kim), but they were all more than adequate, which in today’s market is something of a miracle. Verdian excellence starts in the pit, and Victor DeRenzi, as at his usual post leading Sarasota Opera, led with attention, knowing care and propulsive élan, opening most (if not quite all) standard cuts. There were occasional lapses of coordination in ensembles, but the players and choristers sounded very good indeed; nothing in this great score was shirked.
The leads reflected credit on DeRenzi too, since four of them have worked with him in Verdi at Sarasota. Manrico was Rafael Dávila, who sang his successful first Otello this spring for DeRenzi at Sarasota. He possesses an effective, pliable sound reminiscent of Carlo Cossutta, with banked power but enough suavity for a creditable if trill-free “Ah sì, ben mio” and enough flash for a lowered but stirring “Di quella pira.” Other forte high notes occasionally “percolated” a bit, but in general Dávila did a commendable job. Erica Strauss’s soprano isn’t very Italianate, but she handled Leonora’s complex duties with aplomb and bright, shining tone. She ventured an exciting interpolated high D-flat and the cabaletta “Tu vedrai” (one verse, at least), still often cut outside of major urban centers. Gifted Neapolitan baritone Marco Nisticò had to work hard to project sufficient tone (and a suave enough legato) in di Luna’s music; he compensated with ardor and native linguistic phrasing.
2012 Met Auditions winner Margaret Mezzacappa, just out of AVA, stepped in as Azucena on several weeks’ notice and did a very fine job with her well-knit, flowingly produced instrument. Initially a bit bright for this particular role, it found more chest resonance in the afternoon’s second half. One hopes Mezzacappa will let her undoubted talent grow naturally into large-format Verdi roles, at least in large venues. JoAna Rusche offered a notably sweet-voiced Inez and Kyle David Van Schoonhoven a sonorous Ruiz. Much as I enjoyed listening to this Trovatore, the physical production, evocative of The Victor Book of the Opera, sometimes approached the risible (though not the sumptuous traditional costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan). Stephanie Sundine has done some lovely “come scritto” stagings at Sarasota, but this one stubbornly refused to yield any dramatic urgency save for some fire displayed by Nisticò’s driven Count.
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