Baltimore Concert Opera closes season with Puccini's 'Il Trittico'
The performance of "Suor Angelica" proved quite effective overall.
This melodrama is forever on the verge of corny or kitschy, but Puccini's exquisitely crafted music always keeps things from spilling over. Even so, the ending presents a hurdle.
Here, the title character of the nun with a dark past takes a lethal dose of poison after learning that the out-of-wedlock child she left behind has died. As the opera closes, Angelica sees a vision of the child beckoning to her from the other world.
In a concert version, all of that can be left to the imagination (some stage productions allow that, too), but you still need to feel Angelica's emotional roller-coaster ride of emotions as death approaches -- her fear of having committed the mortal sin of suicide; her intense relief when she senses that she will be forgiven and redeemed, after all.
Elizabeth Brooks conveyed ...
these feelings affectingly. She acted out the whole closing portion of the opera, from the searing aria "Senza mamma" on, with impressive intensity.
The soprano did not have all of the vocal resources to go with the fine acting. Her tone had a narrow color range and lost security in the upper reaches. Still, Brooks brought the character and the tragedy to life, and that counted for a lot.
Laura Zuiderveen, singing from memory and with considerable expressive force, captured the severity of Angelica's aunt, the Principessa. Also bringing sturdy vocalism and a lot of character to the performance were Melissa Kornacki (the Abbess), Madeleine Gray (La Zelatrice), Alexandra Christoforakis (La Maestra delle Novizie) and Sharin Apostolou (Suor Genovieffa). The rest of the participants did sensitive work.
Conductor Michael Borowitz kept things moving smoothly. Puccini's score is much too rich in sonic material to be reduced to a mid-sized grand, but pianist James Harp didn't let that deter him; his playing had enough nuance and warmth to provide compensation.
In "Il Tabarro," the verismo chapter of the triptych, Brooks skimmed the surface as the unfaithful wife Giorgetta, and often sounded effortful. Although David Murray was sympathetic as Michele, Giorgetta's increasingly suspicious husband, there was not enough weight and nuance in the baritone's singing.
Theodore Chletsos came closer to the mark as Luigi, the stevedore who wants to take Giorgetta away from the humdrum life on the Seine. Except for tightening in the upper reaches, the tenor impressed with a robust tone and ardent phrasing.
Gray brought vocal authority and verve to the role of Frugola. Ben Hilgert (Tinca) and Thomas McNichols (Talpa) filled out the cast ably. Nicholas Houhoulis and Natalie Conte handled the off-stage music nicely.
For the 2012-2013 season, Baltimore Concert Opera will offer performances of "Cosi fan tutte," "Macbeth," "Carmen" and "Tosca."
PHOTO OF 1918 PREMIERE CAST OF 'SUOR ANGELICA' FROM WIKIPEDIA