The staging repeatedly undermined a strong cast capable of meeting many of Beethoven's extreme vocal challenges. Once soprano Christine Goerke got past the difficult slow section of "Abscheulicher!", she sang with powerful projection and searing accuracy. And she was a touching presence. Tenor Michael Hendrick's voice cracked on a couple of high notes (the character is, after all, in extremis), and his Florestan didn't seem all that happy to see Leonore, but he was otherwise plausible and even admirable. Bass Andrew Funk was a sympathetic, warm-voiced Rocco, baritone Scott Bearden a convincingly villainous Don Pizarro (he was booed too, but I'm sure as a sign of his effectiveness). Tenor Jason Ferrante and minxish soprano Meredith Hansen were capable comic figures. And as Don Fernando, the rescuing minister (or archbishop?), veteran baritone Robert Honeysucker deserved the big hand he got, both for his noble, resonant singing and for having to appear in an over-the-top (not a figure of speech) mitre and acres of hyacinth-and-gilt robes.

The superb chorus deserves special praise. The hushed Prisoners' Chorus was the most moving scene in the production. Gil Rose led it with subtlety and graceful restraint. Elsewhere, Rose and his orchestra never quite settled into conveying Beethoven's urgency. The famous Fidelio Overture seemed tame. For a few minutes, though, because it was played with the curtain down and not staged (a cliché of so many opera productions these days), I had hopes that this time the music would be the prime mover. I was wrong. As they used to say during the Spanish Inquisition: "Oy vey!"

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