Miami Symphony delivers an enjoyable evening of arias

By Dorothy Hindman

Hobart Earle conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra in an evening of opera arias Saturday night at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra’s “Night at the Opera” at the Wertheim Center for the Performing Arts combined the talents of guest conductor Hobart Earle and singers from the vocal studio of Manny Perez for an enjoyable sampling of favorite Romantic and Classical arias.  Earle, longtime conductor of the Ukraine’s Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, is dramatic yet precise, conveying clearly what he wants.  MISO was in fine form with Earle at the helm, opening the evening with unified warmth and energy in Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. 

A one-off “Night at the Opera” often portends a mixed bag of quality, but the singers in Manny Perez’s studio demonstrate polished maturity.  Any one of them could go directly to a career with great success, and most have already made their professional debuts.  Cuban-born Perez, a University of Miami alumnus, has a knack for spotting talent.  His coaching style was evident in every performance, in clear diction, seamless range, exceptional projection, and emotional characterizations.

One need look no further than Kelly Griffin’s portrayal of Electra from Mozart’s Idomeneo, or Clayton Mathews’ “Catalogue Aria” from Don Giovanni.  Griffin embodied her role, with a fierceness matched by a rounded tone and superb coordination with the orchestra.  Bass-baritone Mathews’ diction and bright, forward tone ensured that pitch and text were never lost in the texture, delivering with a charming smile.

The bar was set for the first half by Christina Zimmer’s powerful, rich mezzo-soprano on concert opener Una voce poco fa, Rosina’s cavatina from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  Soprano Nathalie Avila’s rafter-shaking “Elsa’s Narrative” (Einsam in trüben Tagen) from Wagner’s Lohengrin had a sweet tenderness despite the volume, endearing her to the audience.

Mezzo-soprano Mabel Ledo was another favorite, closing the first half fittingly with O mio Fernando from Donizetti’s La Favorita.  Ledo admirably conveyed Leonora’s mixed feelings about her impending marriage to Fernando, going from a shaky, ill at ease opening to joyously unleashed power by the end.

Where the first half was solidly entertaining, the second half was occasionally revelatory. Earle’s commanding presence and brisk tempo brought forth a stirring sound from the orchestra with Bizet’s Prelude to Act II from Carmen, segueing into Martin Nusspaumer’s La fleur que tu m’avais jetée. Nusspaumer possesses star potential, with a tenor reminiscent of Domingo, and a penchant for similar slides.  His control of diction and intonation, phrasing, and deeply emotional delivery was stunning.

Soprano Betsy Diaz, at just twenty-three, is also destined for great things.  Displaying one of the most powerful voices of the evening, her richness in lower registers and thrilling upper end was matched by a believability in Il est doux, il est bon from  Massenet’s Hérodiade.  Principal cellist Aron Zelkowicz contributed a magical, supportive solo.

Marinel Cruz’s dark vocal beauty was a show stopper, lingering over every note in L’altra notte in fondo al mare from Boito’s Mefistofele.  Cruz possesses everything you might wish for in a soprano, including physical beauty, a powerful lower range and superb diction.

And it isn’t a night at the opera without the Verdi.  Tenor Ferenando Fabiaun’s bright tone and Latin inflection brought earnestness to La mia Letizia in fondere from I Lombardi.  The orchestra’s multiplicity of themes in the Overture to Verdi’s La Forza del Destino gave Earle a chance to put a responsive MISO through their paces, reminding the audience of the wealth of talent and potential the Miami Symphony possesses.

Lastly, the crowd-pleasing closer Sempre libera from La Traviata was capably delivered by soprano Susana Diaz, with a purity of tone in her recitatives and a sweetness in her higher register that captured by turns Violetta’s happiness and alarm at her deepening feelings for Alfredo.

The program will be repeated 7 p.m. Sunday at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.

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Sun Apr 22, 2012
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