Soprano Martinez offers fire and luster at Festival Miami

By David Fleshler

Ana Maria Martinez performed a recital of arias and Spanish songs Saturday night at Festival Miami.

The recital by the soprano Ana María Martínez really caught fire in the last third or so of the evening, when she soared through a series of fiery, passionate arias from the Spanish-language operettas called zarzuelas.

The first two-thirds of Saturday evening’s concert at Gusman Concert Hall, devoted to Spanish songs and well-known opera arias, were fine as well everything you would expect from a world-class soprano whose recital had been anticipated as one of the classical highlights of the University of Miami’s Festival Miami series. Martínez combines the rich, lustrous voice and committed style that has won her major roles at top houses with the showbiz sensibility of someone who has performed around the world with pop-opera star Andrea Bocelli.

Still, despite her reputation, there were large blocks of empty seats at Gusman Hall. “I’m stunned that we’re not packed to the rafters,” said Shelly Berg, dean of UM’s Frost School of Music, at the opening of the recital, which was co-presented by Judy Drucker. “Those of you that are here know that you’re hearing one of the most wonderful opera performers in the world.”

In the first half of the program, devoted to songs by Spanish composers, Martinez was at her best in the slower, more intimate works that showed off the warmth of her voice. Tres Estrof, a love song by the cellist Pablo Casals, made the most of her sensual lower register. She lost some of the sensuality but none of the luster for the bleaker text and music of Rodrigo’s Con qué la lavaré. In Rodrigo’s La Espera, her performance was particularly searching and effective, with long sustained pianissimos and a meditative quality that gave the performance great immediacy and spontaneity.

Less effective were some of the quicker, more extroverted songs, such as Rodrigo’s De dónde venís, amore? and de Falla’s Jota. Although she snapped off the characteristic Spanish ornamentations with accuracy, a hard stridency came into her voice in these songs, which need a lighter touch. Part of the issue may have been the overly percussive performance by the pianist Thomas Jaber, who seemed at times to forget he was accompanying a soprano and not performing the Grieg concerto.

Next came some familiar arias, Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Porgi amor from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Qual fiamma and Stridono lassù from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Of these the Rossini was by far the most impressive, as Martínez hit the high notes and nailed the difficult coloratura with accuracy and style, loading the aria with humor and personality but never losing her characteristic vocal gleam and warmth.

But she saved the best for the three zarzuela arias at the end. In Canción Española from El Niño Judío by Pablo Luna and La Petenera from La Marchenera by Federico Moreno Torroba, she sang with a sure, light touch and the authority of someone who was enjoying herself and completely at home in the music. In Lamento de María from María la O by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, she brought lyric warmth to the aria’s long lines of romantic melody and took it to a passionate, intensely felt climax. As encores, she gave a snappy, energetic account of the zarzuela aria Carceleras by Ruperto Chapí and lyrical account of O mio babbino caro by Puccini.

Festival Miami continues Sunday at 4 p.m. with Frost School of Music bassoon professor Luciano Magnanini leading a concert of chamber music with the Frost Chamber Players., 305-284-4940.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Soprano Martinez offers fire and luster at Festival Miami”

  1. Posted Oct 18, 2012 at 12:07 am by Thomas Jaber

    I sincerely apologize to Mr. Fleshler for having been too percussive in the quicker pieces. That was certainly never my intention. It is, of course, a disappointment that he did not seem to notice the thousands of other moments where surely there was great beauty lovingly achieved between the soprano soloist and me. It was a great joy to play this marvelous music at Festival Miami with Ms. Martinez. Sincerely, Tom Jaber Houston, TX

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Sun Oct 14, 2012
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