Miami Lyric Opera’s concert brightens up a rainy night

By David Fleshler

It had all the makings of a depressing Thursday evening. Wind-driven rain had swept pedestrians off Lincoln Road, leaving the nightlife strip gray and empty. At the Colony Theater, where Miami Lyric Opera was to present an evening of arias accompanied by piano, just 37 people had slogged through the downpour to make it to the concert.

Yet there were several hard-core opera buffs in the crowd, and the singers ignored the disappointing turnout and produced a fine evening of arias, including mini-concert versions of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.

The tiny opera company is known for low-budget but well-handled performances, often with excellent singers and invariably with tiny orchestras and high school musical sets.  Not every singer on the bill Thursday was ready to work with a major opera company. But there were some excellent voices on stage.

Two standouts of the evening were the tenor Lievens Castillo and the soprano Jennifer Harris, both of whom possessed voices worthy of bigger companies. Castillo, a native of the Dominican Republic who performs locally as part of The Three Latin Tenors, has an intense, tightly focused voice with a genuine tenor’s ping on top. He put real drama into his voice in Tombe degli avi miei from the end of Lucia, although he suffered an occasional loss of precision, not quite hitting or staying on the right note.

Possibly the strongest, most professional voice of the evening belonged to the soprano Jennifer Harris, who had a lush, rich voice that always maintained tonal focus. In Ballo, her rendition of Ecco l’orrido campo was a model of interpretation that maintained vocal beauty while expressing the drama of the part.

The baritone Nelson Martinez, who studied in his native Cuba, brought a big, powerful voice to the roles of Enrico in Lucia and Renato in Ballo. His voice tended toward the bass end, with a rich, dark quality in the lower register, but he sang with an expressive lyricism in Eri tu from Ballo, and his Cruda funestra from Lucia was dark and angry without descending into bellowing.

The soprano Dora Ines Cardona took the demanding role of Lucia. While her voice wasn’t the richest, thinning out as it went higher, she handled the coloratura demands of the Mad Scene with effortless precision, tossing off ornamentations and hitting high notes with commendable accuracy.

Accompanying the singers was the pianist Beverly Coulter, who did her best to fill in for the orchestras of Verdi and Donizetti, missing a note here and there but providing supportive, sensitive playing for the singers.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats the program 8 p.m. Saturday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. Call 305-674-1040 or go to

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Fri Jun 4, 2010
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