Second-cast soprano rises to challenge in FGO’s “Thaïs”

By Lawrence Budmen

Angela Mortellaro in Massenet's "Thais" at Florida Grand Opera. Photo: Lorne Grandison

Angela Mortellaro in Massenet’s “Thais” at Florida Grand Opera. Photo: Lorne Grandison

Florida Grand Opera’s Sunday matinee of Massenet’s Thaïs at the Arsht Center introduced Angela Mortellaro as the production’s second-cast heroine.

The young soprano was a musically stylish but less vocally reliable protagonist than Eglise Gutiérrez proved at Saturday’s opening. Mortellaro’s voice is smaller, her vocal compass more limited than Gutiérrez. In the initial scenes of revelry in Alexandria , Mortellaro’s upper register was harsh, a flutter sometimes afflicting her high notes.

She gained strength in the opera’s later acts, and Mortellaro brought delicacy and lovely tone to the scene of the heroine’s conversion. Her bright timbre blended nicely with Kristopher Irmiter’s darker sound in the desert duet and she carried the lyrical line of the death scene movingly.

A captivating stage personality, Mortellaro was a more playful Thaïs than Gutierrez, her Egyptian courtesan seeming more amused than challenged by the fervent monk Athanaël’s attempt to make her repent her sinful life. Dramatically, she shone most impressively in the tragic final scenes, the contrast from her earlier gaiety strongly projected.

Florida Grand Opera repeats Thaïs May 6 and 10 at the Arsht Center in Miami and May 15 and 17 at the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale. Angela Mortellaro sings the title role May 10 while Eglise Gutiérrez sings all the other performances.; 800-741-1010.

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Mon May 5, 2014
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