Tuesday, November 22, 2022
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Rachmaninoff 3 ways « parterre field

“I had no concept Rachmaninoff wrote opera…” an knowledgeable, music-loving good friend texted me lately.

Nicely, Rachmaninoff definitely tried!

At face worth, my good friend’s remark speaks to each Sergei Rachmaninoff’s overwhelming affiliation with symphonic repertoire and an total lesser familiarity with the small quantity of solo vocal writing he did do.

However the remark additionally inadvertently challenges the three one-act operas themselves, every one opulent and wealthy in musical element but tenuous in its relationship to a medium that limns narrative, character, motion, and ambiance to music, which really profit from a consecutive, chronological, concert-style presentation like Odyssey Opera gave them (for the primary time ever on this nation!) on Sunday afternoon at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Corridor.

That stated, these items are usually not totally unknown portions; Aleko (1892) The Miserly Knight (1902), and Francesca da Rimini (1904) could also be titles of however passing familiarity to opera followers, but all have had a minimum of one NY metro space presentation previously decade (with The Miserly Knight popping up at Bard’s Summerscape pageant simply this summer season). These complicated, tough, musically rewarding scores undoubtedly deserve extra play, even when Rachmaninoff’s discomfort with the medium, paradoxically, appears to develop extra acute as he finds his compositional voice throughout the twelve years these items span.

Throughout the three operas, the ethos behind the solitary sinuousness of the well-known Vocalise is reproduced at scale; voices transfer in seeming isolation, seldom wending along with any complexity to shade a phrase with nuance and rousing orchestral interludes typically really feel disjointed from the vocal scenes. Environment often wins out, be it the Tsingari camp of Aleko or the flaming inferno of Francesca, and musical depictions of characters and actions are often much less evocative. The prevailing aura, after listening to a lot bass cantillating, is vaguely liturgical.

Aleko, a verismo-inflected opera taken from Alexander Pushkin a few jealous husband’s murderous revenge for his spouse’s infidelity amidst a Roma camp, has essentially the most strong dramatic framework. It helped that the opera begins with a monologue for the Outdated Man, father of the fated spouse Zemfira, sung with plangent expressivity by Kevin Thompson. His even, rippling vibrato and the astonishing depth of each his vary and his timbre was hypnotic from the outset. That is an artist to observe, for positive.

Because the jealous Aleko, Aleksey Bogdanov stretched gnashing, righteous fervor throughout his taut baritone, however was unable to melt his tone or his tack to offer the character any depth. Ukranian soprano Yelena Dyachek had an particularly sensible exhibiting as Zemfira, reaching right down to the smoldering depths of her rounded decrease vary with seductive ease. And tenor Andrew Bidlack, as The Younger Man she loves, sang with sweetness and management with a serenade that garnered a smattering of mid-performance applause.

The rating of Aleko revels in each one of many musical tropes related to depicting nomads (moody reeds, meandering passages for prime strings, tinkling percussion, cymbals, abrupt modifications in dynamics, and so on.). Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera Inventive and Normal Director and conductor right here, accentuated every trait in his detailed, energetic studying of the rating. If a few of these inner juxtapositions lacked some coherence, it’s extra a trait of the rating itself than Rose’s studying.

In The Miserly Knight, additionally taken from Pushkin, the connection between textual content and music is extra subtle with the orchestra carrying a level of import virtually parodic in contrast with the trivial squabbling of the characters. Although its ambiance is much less distinct, it strikes with larger fluidity to inform the story of Albert, a petulant prince who needs to entry the fortunes his miserly father the Baron has been hoarding away.

Spencer Hamlin’s muscular tenor communicated that petulance with robust excessive notes, albeit with out a lot selection. Because the Baron, a job conceived for Feodor Chaliapin, Mikhail Svetlov was an imposing presence, particularly throughout his prolonged solo scene, a maniacal rant about wealth and saving climaxing in an exciting musical passage depicting the opening of the baron’s remaining unfilled coffer. Svetlov’s sound is probably not a columnar one, however his gurgly bass lower exactingly into the textual content, making his monologue a spotlight of the afternoon. Yeghishe Manucharyan, a gallant presence, did his finest negotiating the hideously antisemitic function of The Moneylender. Bogdanov returned right here as The Duke who is meant to mediate the deadly dispute to thrilling, thunderous impact.

Rachmaninoff’s remaining opera, an animation of Francesca da Rimini, the fated but eloquent Italian noblewoman of Canto V from Dante’s Inferno, treats a topic common readers of the Field will know is expensive to this author’s coronary heart. Possibly a number of the intricacies of Francesca’s speech, a narration about how she and her brother-in-law Paolo Malatesta turned possessed by love whereas studying of Lancelot and Guenevere and have been ultimately slain by Francesca’s husband Lanceotto over the infidelity, are what stymied librettist Modest Tchaikovsky. However regardless of if that is essentially the most dramatically turgid of the three items, it’s an unparalleled feast for the orchestra and Rose held nary a punch in deciphering it.

Thompson and Manucharyan made elegant returns right here, as Dante and Virgil within the quick prologue that precedes the opera. Then, the story is punted to the characters to enact themselves. Bogdanov appeared a remaining time, effectively solid as a surprisingly rational but stridently bellicose Lanceotto Malatesta (full with a hair-raising cackle).

Andrew Bidlack additionally reappeared as Paolo, egging Francesca on to learn with a young lilt amidst a relentlessly excessive tessitura. Whereas his frequent excessive notes confirmed indicators of stress, they admirably retain the forthright pearlescence of the remainder of his timbre. Even when Paolo is sort of silent within the Commedia, I’m glad Bidlack had one thing to do right here.

Nevertheless it was Dyachek’s second as Francesca. Whereas her decrease register was on show in Aleko, right here she was wrapping her attractive, supple voice round Francesca’s floating traces with effortlessness. Her earnestness and the rippling sheen of her excessive notes gave a slightly staid scene a plaintive core which made her dissolution again into Rachmaninoff’s ‘bufera infernal’ much more devastating.

Rose conjured attractive taking part in from each featured part of the Odyssey Opera Orchestra whereas hell and the moans of the damned (ethereally sung by the Odyssey Opera Refrain) swirled relentlessly by the corridor.

On the very finish of the Canto V, Dante faints, overcome by the eloquence of Francesca’s story. After practically 4 hours of essentially the most luscious Russian opera carried out with such tireless zeal, I used to be practically able to do the identical, overcome by the emotion, enthusiasm, and rigor of an exquisite afternoon of music-making.



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