Caballero and colleagues charm in appealing mix of opera and Broadway

By Lawrence Budmen

Soprano Elizabeth Caballero performed Friday night at Festival Miami. Photo: Elsa Roberto

Soprano Elizabeth Caballero performed Friday night at Festival Miami. Photo: Elsa Roberto

Opera’s Greatest Hits with a sampling of Broadway standards was the crowd-pleasing bill of fare for Festival Miami on Friday night. The Miami-based soprano Elizabeth Caballero was the program’s star attraction. She was presented with the University of Miami Frost School of Music’s 2013 Distinguished Alumna Award.

Over a decade ago Caballero was a member of Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program. She has come a long way since those early days, singing leading roles with opera companies in the United States, Europe and South America. Initially a light soubrette, Caballero has expanded her repertoire to encompass major soprano roles in the Verdi-Puccini canon. From the moment she took the stage of Gusman Concert Hall, Caballero exuded authority and vocal ease. She exhibited a plush, lustrous tone in “Ernani Involame” from Verdi’s Ernani, the high notes and trills of the cabaletta tossed off with panache. Her ardent “Un bel di” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly nicely mixed childlike naiveté and lyric opulence.

Caballero shared the stage with two members of the Frost School’s vocal faculty. Both Robynne Redmon and Kevin Short bring big-league credentials and vocal authority, a boon to the university’s voice students.

Redmon has sung major mezzo roles in such august venues as the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala. She brought velvety low tones and Verdian fervor to Azucena’s “Stride la vampa” from Il Trovatore, the gypsy’s fanatical anguish vividly conveyed. Redmon was both seductive and passionate in “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Samson et Delila by Saint-Saens. Carmen’s Habanera was subtly voiced, the dynamic gradations well pointed. Caballero and Redmon blended timbres exquisitely in the flower duets from Madama Butterfly and Lakme, the coloratura in the Delibes cleanly articulated.

Kevin Short’s deep bass and voluminous sound surged through Attila’s aria from Verdi’s opera. He was truly demonic in Mephistopheles’ “Le Veau d’or” from Gounod’s Faust. Short was Don Giovanni to Caballero’s Zerlina in a lightly voiced “La ci darem la mano.” The beautiful trio “Soave sia il vento” from Cosi fan tutte found Caballero, Redmon and Short exhibiting fine Mozart style, the blended voices beautifully balanced.

Turning to lighter offerings, Caballero was admirably strained in the title Romanza from the zarzuela Maria La O, singing the Lecuona melody sans exaggerated melodramatics. Her idiomatic treatment of music from the Broadway stage was a delightful surprise. “Summertime” combined Gershwin’s operatic and bluesy sides winningly. “If I Loved You” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel was exquisitely lyrical. Joined by Short, “Bess You Is My Woman Now” waxed mellow.

Short offered a fine “I Got Plenty of Nothing” with just the right touch of sly wit and a richly beautiful “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific. “Old Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat was deep and heartfelt. Redmon fared less well in Broadway mode. Her “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” seemed too operatic, “Bali Hai” vocally uncomfortable.

For her encore, Caballero sang a Spanish language version of “Vila” from Lehar’s Merry Widow, her soft, high tones beautifully controlled. Whether channeling Verdi or Kern, Elaine Rinaldi was a sensitive, vocally attentive piano accompanist. The entire evening showcased the distinctive talents of a Miami diva and two recent stalwart additions to the Frost vocal faculty.

Festival Miami presents pianist Cecile Licad in recital 4 p.m. Sunday at UM Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables. The program features works by MacDowell, Busoni, Chaminade, Gottschalk, Mason and Ornstein. 305-284-4940;

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Sat Oct 19, 2013
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