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The Tucker Tradition

(Brian Kellow, Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala, Michael Fabiano) Permanent link   All Posts

The 2014 Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala began with a jubilant, Yankees-game style greeting from its president, Barry Tucker, who welcomed the audience to what he called “the number-one opera concert in America.” After the cheering subsided, Tucker made a less happy announcement: four of the gala’s scheduled singers — Stephen Costello, Marcello Giordani, Isabel Leonard and Anna Netrebko — had cancelled. Some were out because of illness, but Netrebko’s withdrawal was brought on by her grueling schedule of Lady Macbeths at the Met; her participation in the gala must have been questionable from the beginning, since her name was not printed in the program. Emmanuel Villaume was on hand to lead the Richard Tucker Gala Orchestra, a strong and cohesive pickup group, and the New York Choral Society performed under the direction of David Hayes. 

Each year, the centerpiece of the gala is the winner of the $50,000 Richard Tucker Award — an American artist who shows every sign of being on the threshold of a big international career. The 2014 winner of the Richard Tucker Award, the gifted tenor Michael Fabiano, led off the program with “Si! De’ Corsari il fulmine” from Il Corsaro; he was in superb voice, and his final “Alarmi!” packed a visceral wallop that got the program off to a thrilling start. 

After that, there was a slow stretch: soprano Pretty Yende has an attractive voice, but her interpretation of “Qui la voce” was dull; she seemed unable to shape the aria or move it toward any kind of climax. Bass Ildar Abdrazakov’s “Infelice! ... e tuo Credevi” from Ernani suffered from a similar lack of engagement, and by the end, he was nearly inaudible. Tenor Joseph Calleja’s “E lucevan le stelle” was not in the thrilling Richard Tucker tradition, but he did display a fine messa di voce, and generally opted for sweet over stentorian. 

The evening then moved into high gear: Angela Meade, the 2011 winner of the Tucker Award, electrified the audience with “Esprits de l’air” from Massenet’s Esclarmonde, backed up by mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano. Meade sang with tonal beauty, splendid rhythmic elasticity and fearlessly made the spectacular jumps to a high D. She expertly captured the aria’s magical lunacy and wit; it was also a brilliant programming choice, since the repertory at the Tucker Gala tends to be unvaryingly meat and potatoes. Meade returned for an unannounced “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from La Forza del Destino, in which she floated certain phrases magnificently and landed on her climactic B-flat, held past the double-bar line.

The rest of the program was a mixed bag, with baritone Željko Lučić offering a rather dry-toned, juiceless “Nemico della patria” from Andrea Chénier, and tenor Paul Appleby and Broadway soprano Alexandra Silber (a last-minute addition to the program) making absolute hash out of the Balcony Scene from West Side Story. Michael Fabiano figured in all of the remaining high points, including a “N’est-ce plus ma main” from Manon (in which he was superbly partnered by the fine soprano Joyce El-Khoury) and the finale of Act II from Lucia di Lammermoor, in which Fabiano’s Edgardo was the real dramatic centerpiece, particularly when he emitted an achingly pain-wracked “Rispondi!” to Meade’s Lucia — eschewing the usual triple-forte rage that tenors go for at that moment. spacer 


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I hope these singers will be in a future PBS telecast. Thank you.
Posted by: Paul Hill at 11/13/2014 5:55 PM

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