Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 22

by Megan Meister

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway with Frederic Chaslain at the piano

I was invited to attend a performance in a beautiful private home yesterday afternoon of a new song cycle composed by Frederic Chaslain, Santa Fe Opera’s new chief conductor.  The songs were a setting of poems by Robert Frost, and were performed by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway who is here this summer for the role of “Siebel” in FAUST which Frederic is conducting. The composer accompanied at the piano and explained each of the ten or so songs (some of which were quite short.) Jenn (who has appeared in Dallas as “Cherubino” in our last season in the Music Hall and as “Dorabella” in our first season in the Winspear) then read the text of each poem before singing the song that was inspired by it.

It was a lovely afternoon and the small group of people who were there felt privileged to be there.

Last night was the fifth opera in that many evenings, and was a performance of Vivaldi’s GRISELDA, in what is the first  professional production in America of this Venetian rarity.

The Dallas Opera presented Vivaldi’s ORLANDO FURIOSO in 1980 (with Marilyn Horne) in what is thought to be the first  Vivaldi opera ever produced in the United States.

This composer’s neglect is incomprehensible and much of his music compares more than favorably to that of Handel, the most obvious comparison.

I wasn’t crazy about Peter Sellars production, but some of the singing was breathtaking.  The cast was headed by Meredith Arwady in the title role (who recently sang the “Hostess” in the Dallas Opera production of BORIS GODUNOV) but she was given a run for her money by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the role of “Costanza” (who happens to have the most well known aria in the opera, the bravura showpiece “Agitata da due venti” which has been recorded by Montserrat Caballe and Cecilia Bartoli, among many other celebrated singers who appreciate Baroque opera.)

Countertenor David Daniels was sensational as “Costanza’s (almost) jilted lover, “Roberto.”.  What an artist !

Unfortunately, it was a rare rainy, windy and chilly night at the Santa Fe Opera, and some of the sold out audience left at the intermission.  That is sad, because it really wasn’t  because they weren’t enjoying the music !

It continued to rain all through the night, and I am sure this desert community didn’t mind the unexpected precipitation.

Now if the rain could only find its way to Dallas…

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