The auditions yesterday were slightly disappointing. The singer I was most looking forward to hearing cancelled because he was to sing last night in LUCIA. His name is Rene Barbera, and he is from San Antonio. He recently won the Operalia vocal competition sponsored by Placido Domingo, and I was very impressed by him last June when I saw him in Saint Louis as “Tonio” in DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT. I really wanted to hear him again in some different repertory, but it was not destined to be.
The mezzo Emily Fons who impressed me so much in the HOFFMANN on Sunday afternoon, was wonderful, but no one else really stood out.
I think there is a lot of talent in the group, but they still need a bit of work. That is the reason, of course, that they are in a young artists program like the Ryan Center.
The LUCIA last night was quite good, and Susanna Phillips had a triumph in the title role. She was a wonderful “Countess” in the Dallas FIGARO in 2008, but she has developed tremendously since then. I told her afterward how wonderful she had been and I just hope that she is an old film buff since I added “First there was Janet Gaynor and Judy Garland, then Barbra Streisand, and now Susanna Phillips.” This was an allusion to the film A STAR IS BORN, because this production will catapult Susanna to the forefront of her profession.
Giuseppe Filianoti, Brian Mulligan, Christian Van Horn and Rene Barbera were all very good, but the opera is called LUCIA for a reason !
It was a new production staged quite effectively by Catherine Malfitano, who has in recent years transitioned from a long, illustrious singing career into directing. It is wonderful that she has found another outlet for her extraordinary talent, and this production was a testament to her years of experience on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses.