Soprano Nadine Sierra shows the stuff of great artistry
Nadine Sierra is the complete package. The Fort Lauderdale soprano has the looks, the charisma and most importantly, the voice to become an operatic star.
With her career starting to take off, she gave a recital Saturday at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall that was a homecoming of sorts. Her parents, who now live in Delray Beach, were seated in the front row. Also in the audience were friends, other family members and Robert Heuer, general director of Florida Grand Opera, all there to hear a young singer who is starting to get noticed in some of the world’s most important opera houses.
Sierra, who won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2009, will appear next season in San Francisco Opera’s world premiere of Heart of a Soldier, an opera about a hero of the 9/11 attacks. From the stage Saturday, it was announced that she will make her debut at Milan’s famous opera house La Scala, where she will take the role of Nanetta in Verdi’s Falstaff.
Her recital, the final season event of the Sunday Afternoons of Music series, showed off a creamy soprano voice — gleaming and weighted, rich and full through its range, used with an agility and theatrical sensibility that brought arias to life on the bare Gusman Hall stage. It takes nothing away from her fine performances of songs by Debussy, Grieg and Rodrigo to say that her strongest singing came in the program’s operatic works, in which she brought to bear her natural sense of drama.
In the aria Ah, je veux vivre! from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, she brought out the joy of a young girl contemplating life, with shining, pitch-perfect high notes, a natural sense of phrasing and runs that came off with accuracy and polish. The closing cadenza was a show-stopper of vocal pyrotechnics, and with due respect to the more venerable sopranos who have taken the role, it would be hard to match the freshness and joy in youth that the 23-year-old Sierra brought to the aria.
In the famous aria Caro Nome from Verdi’s Rigoletto, her coloratura was more than accurate and effortless, it was integrated into the aria as an organic, lyrical part of the whole, rather than a tacked-on display of virtuosity. The aria Ruhe sanft from Mozart’s unfinished opera Zaide, which opened the program, was a model of crisply executed ornamentation and sensitive phrasing, performed with a freedom that brought the notes to life without letting the music lose shape.
Sierra was accompanied ably on the piano by Gordon Roberts, a musician unafraid to put a little personality into his own performance even when the focus was on the singer.
The songs also gained from her sense of drama. In the third of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios, in which the singer interrogates a wayward lover, she first fixed the audience with an accusatory look – drawing laughs – before launching into a playfully venomous account of the work.
Grieg’s Ein Traum, in which a lover’s dream turns into reality, was a joyful rush of sound that overpowered through sheer momentum. Her performance of Debussy’s Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse yielded long, sensuous streams of melody, punctuated by moments of vocal playfulness. Villa-Lobos’ well-known Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 was a luxuriant torrent of steamy Brazilian melody. In that work, she was provided with expert and sensitive accompaniment by Tarra Guerra on the guitar.
Her performance drew repeated standing ovations, yielding two encores, a lovingly performed O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and a haunting account of Vilja from Lehar’s Merry Widow.
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Sun Jun 5, 2011
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