Tenor Giordani triumphant at Arsht Center

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Those who aver that the art of genuine Italian opera singing is an endangered species were powerfully and decisively refuted with the triumphant return of Marcello Giordani.

The Metropolitan Opera star came, sang and conquered Monday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center in a one-night event, part of Florida Grand Opera’s Superstar Concert Series, directed by Judy Drucker. And what a pleasure it was to hear a true Italianate tenor voice of this quality, the likes of which Miami hasn’t experienced since Luciano Pavarotti in his unamplified prime.

The Sicilian singer is the real thing, an artist with a big, expansive instrument, and richly idiomatic style. Giordani opened with Quando le sere al placido from Verdi’s Luisa Miller, delivered with ringing tone and clarion high notes. From there he went from strength to strength, pouring out reams of golden sound seemingly effortlessly, with an ardently impetuous Flower aria from Carmen, and an impassioned Donna non vidi mai from his signature role of Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, dedicated to La Drucker. Finest of all was Federico’s Lament from Cilea’s L’arlesiana, which was an apt vehicle for the tenor’s skills of characterization, showing his ability to not only sing magnificently but tell a story as well.

There were moments in the second half, devoted to Italian song, where some slight roughness in his lower register surfaced, but not enough to distract from the expressive detailing and authentic style in songs by Donaudy. Di Curtis and others. Cali’s E vui durmiti ancora, Giordani’s signature song, was a fine late substitution, an ode sung to a faithless lover, which Giordani characterized with great panache.

The singer clearly has an easy camaraderie with conductor Steven Mercurio and, despite his reputation as a serious worrier, showed an engaging sly wit. Standing next to the voluble Mercurio, who was holding a microphone, Giordani said, “I don’t need that.” He also charmingly apologized to the audience for relying on a cheat sheet for the words to Granada, tossing the paper in the air at the end of the song. It’s unfortunate that the program of familiar short arias and songs didn’t provide more opportunity for Giordani to show what a fine vocal actor he is, as he could have done with more extended scenes. 

Florida Grand Opera has insisted on pairing the visiting artists in this series with female “co-stars” and Monday night demonstrated why this is not such a great idea.

Leah Partridge has done some fine things with FGO in recent years and Monday night the soprano looked ravishing and played well off of a gracious Giordani in the obligatory Brindisi from La Traviata.  She also put her gleaming top notes on admirable display in the canary-bird showpiece O luce di quest’anima from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix.

But next to an artist of Giordani’s caliber, Partridge was simply outclassed. Her voice sounded muted in color, thin in the middle register, and technically challenged at times. Even her engaging, bling-loving stage business couldn’t make up for a rendition of Bernstein’s Glitter and Be Gay that was disappointing to say the least, with inaudible words, rushed passagework and cheating on some of the coloratura.

Encores included Giordani’s stirring Nessun dorma, with imposing top note—and nice impromptu choral support by the Knight audience—and a duetted version of Gastaldon’s Musica proibita, with Giordani letting Partridge begin, then strolling in from the wings to join her.

Conductor Mercurio is a bit of a showman, but he undeniably has the fervor and lyric intensity of Italian opera in his blood. The opening overture to Nabucco was magnificent, and, apart from a curiously sluggish Candide overture, Mercurio drew the most dynamic and impassioned playing heard from the new FGO orchestra to date in various intermezzi and excerpts.

The American conductor has been absent for nine long years from the FGO roster and his intensity and energy have been greatly missed. With podium slots to plug next season, FGO should snap him up immediately, preferably for the opening Puccini-Leoncavallo double bill, verismo rep in which Mercurio is at his finest.

Posted in Performances

3 Responses to “Tenor Giordani triumphant at Arsht Center”

  1. Posted Mar 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm by William

    I totally agree that Giordani outclassed Partridge. He sang on a totally different level. She needs help on her embellishments. Maybe someone should write them out for her. I don’t know why FGO is sticking young artists with major stars. I wish they would explain the rationale. I have to say that I’m tired of hearing up and coming singers. I want to hear stars. FGO should hire real stars and just do 2 operas if that’s all they can afford. I am tired of hearing house singers and unknowns.

    I’m tired of Miami’s audience however. Applause interrupted the beginning of Nessun Dorma and his final high note. At Traviata back in November it seemed like a quarter of the audience waltzed in during the preludio as if it were Grand Central Station. This isn’t a broadway musical, folks!

  2. Posted Mar 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm by Dave R.

    “Florida Grand Opera has insisted on pairing the visiting artists in this series with female “co-stars” and Monday night demonstrated why this is not such a great idea.”

    It was a very good idea the first time with the Russian soprano and it’ll probably be a very good idea the third time with Sarah Coburn, but there is no way it could have been a good idea with Leah Partridge, no matter who she was paired with. At least they had the good sense to keep her appearances to a minimum. Her “Glitter and Be Gay” was truly awful.

  3. Posted Mar 11, 2009 at 10:25 am by ...

    Poor Leah. It was just plain bad.

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Tue Mar 10, 2009
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