Miami Lyric Opera adapts, marks 20th anniversary in high style

By Lawrence Budmen

For two decades, Miami Lyric Opera has presented gifted young singers in complete productions of operas both familiar and less so.  The company’s performances have consistently maintained high vocal standards. 

On Saturday night, Miami Lyric celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gala concert at the Moss Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay. The evening was replete with outstanding vocalism and the fact that some of the performers were last-minute substitutes did nothing to inhibit the artistic quality. Rather it proved a tribute to the ingenuity of Raffaele Cardone, the organization’s founder and guiding light.

As Cardone told the audience, “something always happens.” In this case, soprano Nathalie Avila and tenor Philip Alongi (both frequently heard in MLO productions over the past decade) were stricken with laryngitis and flu, respectively. Although three Verdi and Puccini arias had to be omitted from the program due to the situation, their replacements were anything but second- string. 

Two excerpts from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz introduced soprano Marinel Cruz. Her lyric instrument gleams at the top and commands a radiant middle register. Emanuel Caraman, who sang the title role in the 2014 production of the Mascagni opera, joined her for the Cherry Duet. The Romanian tenor’s voice can ring through the house and stamp a scene with impassioned emotion. Cruz and Caraman’s voices were exceptionally well matched. Marinel Cruz is a singer we definitely want to hear more from.

Tenor Ray Gonzalez, subbing for Alongi, proved the surprise and true discovery of the night. With a dark, almost baritonal sound and a throb in the throat, he delivered a worthy “Non piangere Liu” and the inevitable “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turando soared to the rafters. It was wonderful to hear that ubiquitous aria, for once, with the choral part as the composer originally conceived it. 

Apropos, under the attentive baton of Leo Walz, the chorus also contributed a vigorous servants’ diatribe from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and a fervent “Va Pensiero”  from Verdi’s Nabucco, enhanced by a flowing tempo and subtle dynamics.

Miami-based soprano Eglise Gutierrez, who has sung at major European houses, brought some star power to the program in more ways than one.  In a stunning red gown, she proved a coquettish and flirtatious Norina of Don Pasquale, withSo anchio la virtu” spun elegantly.

Gutierrez’s voice has become more voluminous, the mid-range particularly full and rich. “Regnava nel silenzio” from Lucia di Lammermoor emerged as notably dramatic, the coloratura in the cabaletta was articulated with pinpoint accuracy.

The Lucia-Edgardo duet “Verrano a te sull’ aure” found Caraman declaiming with lyrical ardor. Conductor Beverly Coulter conveyed exceptional affinity for bel canto in her alert accompaniment to the Lucia selections.

Nelson Martinez has been a mainstay of Miami Lyric offerings. An old-school Verdi baritone, Martinez’s booming sound and warmly mellifluous timbre took wing for “Il balen” from Il Trovatore.  

There was drama aplenty in three excerpts from Rigoletto. The Rigoletto-Sparafucile meeting brought the deep basso cantante of Diego Baner as the professional assassin who offers Rigoletto his services. Martinez projected rage and fear in the aria “Pari siamo.” Last season when Gutierrez and Martinez crossed emotional swords (as Violetta and Germont)   in a semi-concert version of La Traviata, the atmosphere was combustible. Sparks again flew as they joined for Rigoletto and Gilda’s “Si vendetta,” a vociferous and fire breathing version bringing down the house.

Many basses come to grief on “Il lacerate spirito” from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra but Baner’s low notes were firm and well placed.  He also offered a moving rendition of Colline’s coat aria from La Boheme. 

Gabriel Menendez is a light baritone whose voice has been honed over the company’s productions. In Dr. Malatesta’s solo from Don Pasquale and Dandini’s riotous ditty from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Menendez delightfully captured the music’s wit and rhythmic pulse. 

Rolando Valdez, from the MLO young artist program, revealed a promising light tenor in the Duke of Mantua’s Questa o quella.

Soprano Yetzabel Arias debuted in two Puccini arias. Her attractive voice was a bit edgy for Mimi’s Act I aria from La Boheme but she engendered pathos in Liu’s death scene from Turandot. Arias is definitely a singer to watch.

The entire concert was an appropriate celebration of this small but vital company and illusrtated Cardone’s deep belief in operatic tradition and musical values. Long may it continue and thrive.

Miami Lyric Opera presents Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor March 18 and 19 at the Moss Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.   

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to “Miami Lyric Opera adapts, marks 20th anniversary in high style”

  1. Posted Nov 21, 2022 at 12:17 pm by Miriam Codias

    Thank you so much for your magnificent Review. There is one thing I would like to add: Our beloved Chorus Master Pablo Hernandez was instrumental for us being ready for Maestro Leo Walz amazing job.

  2. Posted Nov 22, 2022 at 8:44 pm by Aminta Konawicz

    Excellent review that I enjoy very much.
    Thank you for promoting the Opera and enjoying our Miami Lyric Opera Performances.
    Aminta Konawicz MLO Chrorus Soprano.

Leave a Comment

Sun Nov 20, 2022
at 3:32 pm