Weak start, moving finish for second-cast Violetta

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Photo by Deborah Gray Mitchell.

Photo by Deborah Gray Mitchell.

Over the years, Florida Grand Opera has  occasionally booked second principals for some performances. But for the first time this season, the company has embarked on double-casting all five productions with performances divided evenly between two sets of singers. The rationale, says Justin Moss, FGO managing director of public relations and community affairs, is to be able to present more performances in a shorter period of time, thereby eliminating dark nights and keeping overall expenses down.

    For Verdi’s La Traviata, Ailyn Perez is taking on the role of the doomed courtesan Violetta in the second cast, the penultimate performance of which I caught Tuesday night at the Ziff Ballet Opera House.

   The Chicago native makes a pretty, charismatic Violetta with an attractive voice but had a precarious start Tuesday.  Whether nerves or vocal insecurity, her Sempre libera was dismal, Perez dropping phrases to scoop up to hit the C’s and passing on the final top B flat (no flashy interpolated E flat here).

 The only way to save her performance after that was to come out and sing brilliantly for the last two acts. Amazingly, that’s exactly what she did.

 Perez’s voice doesn’t possess the tonal purity or radiant shimmer of Eglise Gutierrez, who is singing the first-cast performances. She does have a bit more lyric cut to the voice, however, which provided the requisite heft to the dramatic moments.

 Perez’s performance went from strength to strength, blending sensitively with Mark Walters’ Germont in Act 2, and quite moving in Violetta’s death scene, which was affectingly acted and beautifully sung.

 Otherwise, the second cast was swings and roundabouts, as the English say. Leonardo Capalbo made a charmless, vocally miscast  Alfredo, no match for the first cast’s Stephen Costello (who, ironically, is Ailyn Perez’s real-life husband). Capalbo’s burry, low-lying tenor has little of the lyric ping for the role, and he alternated between crooning and a loud, hectoring tone — jarringly so, in Parigi, o cara.

 As Germont, Mark Walters on the other hand was all gain. Walters made a tall, dignified presence, conveying bourgeois respectability, and wielded his ample baritone with elegance and style in a nicely rendered Di Provenza il mar.

 Verdi’s La Traviata has two more performances, 8 p.m. Dec. 4 and 6 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Ailyn Perez and Leonardo Capalbo perform Thursday night and Eglise Gutierrez and Stephen Costello on Saturday. $21-$200. 800-741-1010; www.fgo.org.

Posted in Performances, Uncategorized

2 Responses to “Weak start, moving finish for second-cast Violetta”

  1. Posted Nov 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm by Dave R.

    Thanks for reviewing the second cast, Larry. I hope you keep doing it, especially since the second cast appears as often as the first cast!

  2. Posted Nov 28, 2008 at 9:07 am by Richard Rodney Bennett

    Swings and roundabouts, as the English say.
    Like we’re all eccentric oddballs as opposed to creators of the divine languages.
    I know you’re baiting me.
    Sir Richard

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