Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Santa Fe Opera Part IV

by Megan Meister

I was invited yesterday to a small luncheon being given in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who you may know is a huge opera fan.

I was delighted to discover that she had toured the Winspear Opera House last year when she was in Dallas for a speaking engagement at SMU, but unfortunately, wasn’t able to attend a performance.

Needless to say, I extended an invitation.

She had already been to the Glimmerglass Festival last week, where I am heading next week, and was particularly excited by Francesca Zambello’s modern dress AIDA.

Also at the luncheon were soprano Nicole Cabell, baritone Thomas Hampson and his wife, and their daughter, who is married to bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni (who wasn’t there because he was home resting up for last night’s performance of MAOMETTO II.)

Of course Tom asked about the Winspear Opera House since he had performed in the theatre’s opening gala with Denyce Graves in 2009.  He was incredibly complimentary about the building, and that is always so nice to hear.

It was a really lovely luncheon (I was seated between Nicole Cabell and Justice Ginsburg’s daughter-in-law) and felt privileged to be there.

Although I had attended performances of Rossini’s L’ASSEDIO DI CORINTO, a later reworking of MAOMETTO II, I had never had an opportunity to hear a performance of the original version, written for Naples in 1820 until last night.  The Santa Fe performances were the world premiere of a new critical edition edited by Rossini expert Philip Gossett.

I love many of Rossini’s “opera seria” (as opposed to his better known and more frequently performed comedies.)  In fact, Dallas Opera has presented two of them (SEMIRAMIDE and ERMIONE) but I can’t say that upon first exposure that I loved this one.  It is filled with beautiful arias and particularly stunning ensembles, but the libretto simply doesn’t move me.  Maybe it will grow on me upon repeated hearings, since it is never fair to evaluate an opera after only one encounter.

Whatever reservations I might have about the piece, I certainly liked the production.

Staged by director David Alden and designed by Jon Morrell (who collaborated on the 1997 Dallas Opera production of KATYA KABANOVA) it was lovely to watch and David succeeded in telling the story as clearly and dramatically as was probably possible.

The cast was headed up by Luca Pisaroni in the title role, whose character has some of the most florid vocal writing ever composed for the bass voice.  Luca was dazzling in it.

As his love interest, “Anna”, soprano Leah Crocetto, a recent Adler Fellow from the San Francisco Opera, gave notice that here is a major new voice.  Her last act “prayer” received sustained and well deserved applause.

Bruce Sledge was very impressive in the role of her father, Maometto’s sworn enemy, and displayed a fleet coloratura tenor with real “body” to the sound.

The production was nicely paced by Frederic Chaslin, Santa Fe Opera’s Chief Conductor, who is also conducting TOSCA here this summer.

Tonight, I am really looking forward to a performance of Strauss’s ARABELLA, a piece extremely popular in Europe but rarely staged in the States.

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