Miami Lyric Opera provides fine advocacy for Arrieta’s “Marina”

By Lawrence Budmen

Adriana Valdes and Fabian Robles star in Miami Lyric Opera's production of "Marina," Photo: Maria Menendez

Adriana Valdes and Fabian Robles star in Miami Lyric Opera’s production of “Marina,” Photo: Maria Menendez

Miami Lyric Opera’s production of Emilio Arrieta’s Marina brought a Spanish operatic rarity to South Florida. Director Raffaele Cardone fielded a fine cast for Saturday night’s performance at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, making a strong case for this hybrid work.

Arrieta was trained in Italy and deeply influenced by the traditions of Italian bel canto opera. He first conceived Marina in 1855 as a traditional Spanish zarzuela. In 1871, at the behest of star tenor Enrico Tamberlick, Arrieta adapted his original score and libretto into a grand opera.

The influence of Donizetti and Bellini is pervasive throughout the three-act work. Both the formal structure comprising arias, cabalettas, quartets and ensembles and the melodic pattern hew toward early Italian models but without the inspiration of the pre-Verdi masters. The work’s original zarzuela genesis is omnipresent, creating an uneasy mix of styles. Still there are some fine melodies along the way and the orchestral and choral writing is often rousing and imaginative.

Cuban-born soprano Adriana Valdes proved a real find in the title role. Valdes brought ease and agility to the orphaned heroine’s flights in the vocal stratosphere. Her middle voice is strong and vividly colored and she blended in duet with Fabian Robles  to caressing effect. Arrieta quotes the flute cadenza from the Mad Scene in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor almost verbatim during Marina’s  joyous concluding rondo and Valdes imbued this final flourish with glittering coloratura. This promising singer would make a strong Lucia in a future MLO staging of that masterpiece.

Playing the lovelorn sailor Jorge, Robles got off to a shaky start, straying from pitch in his initial aria. The Puerto Rican tenor gathered strength as the opera progressed and displayed passion and dramatic fervor in his confrontation with Marina near the opera’s finale.. His top range has ring and flexibility. There is real squillo in his tone and he can spin a bel canto line elegantly. Propelled by Valdes and Robles’ strong vocalism, the Act I quartet was one of the highlights of the evening.

Diego Baner conveyed the jealousy and arrogance of Marina’s rough suitor Pascual with a solid, well controlled bass-baritone that could turn fiery in anger. His idiomatic affinity for Spanish song was strongly evident. Always a strong stage presence, Nelson Martinez brought, his warm, rotund baritone to the cynical sea captain Roque. Roque’s seguidilla (replete with castanets and plucked strings) and tango in the last act are some of the best tunes in the score and Martinez made the most of these brief opportunities.

Smaller roles were cast from strength. Gabriel Menendez’s finely shaded lyric tenor shone in his brief scenes as Alberto. Daisy Su’s warm mezzo turned Teresa, Marina’s confidant, into a major cameo. As a sailor, chorus member Ray Gonzalez’s tenoral timbre impressed in his exchanges with Baner.

Cardone’s staging portrayed the story in a straightforward manner. The inebriated sailors during Flores and Martinez’s vigorous drinking song and the final uniting of the lovers were especially vividly pictured.

As sailors and townsfolk, Pablo Hernandez’s male chorus made a strong and vociferous showing. Opening with a taut and forceful overture, Beverly Coulter led a strongly contoured performance that never flagged. She drew some powerful and expressive playing from the ensemble. Beautifully articulated solos from violin, horn, harp and, particularly, Robert Billington’s flute, brought Arrieta’s colorful instrumental writing to the fore.

While Marina may be caviar to the mainstream operatic audience, props to Cardone for presenting this interesting curio from the byways of 19th century European opera.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats Marina 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.; 305-674-1040.

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Sun Jun 12, 2016
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