<< -- 3 -- Lawrence Budmen ITALIAN PASSION
The role of the Druid leader Oroveso (Norma's father) can often seem one dimensional and musically ambiguous, but not in the imposing vocal and dramatic presence of Russian bass Alexander Vinogradov. Vinogradov is a modern day exponent of the great Russian school of vocalism. His deep, evenly produced basso profundo rolls out like rich lava. This young singer has already established a presence at the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin. His gorgeous dark bass is simply beautiful. (There is not the slightest hint of vibrato in his voice.) Vinogradov made Oroveso's scenes riveting by the sheer tonal beauty of his singing. A great voice!
In the secondary role of Norma's confidante Clotilde, American soprano Tamara Mesic revealed a lovely, light soubrette voice and charming stage presence. (Oscar in Verdi's Ballo en Maschera would be an ideal role for this delightful young singer.) Tenor Brian Anderson offered lyrical tones as Pollione's friend Flavio. The Druids' choral scenes were given rousing voice by a splendid chorus. FIU Chorale director John Augenblick led his forces in strong voiced perorations. The lyrical moments were deftly sung with fine balancing of the choral sections.
The special Festival Orchestra (strongly led by guest concertmaster Charles Haupt) produced some brilliant playing. In the beautiful melody at the opening of the second act, a splendid cello section produced a rich sound. The clarion trumpet playing of Jeffrey Kaye was particularly outstanding. Italian conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli obtained splendid, fiery ensemble playing. He brought strong intensity and passion to Bellini's tempestuous masterpiece. Yet this music needed more Mozartean elegance. Too often Brignoli was relentless where lyrical repose was wanted. This hard-working conductor brought great enthusiasm and authority to the performance -- a real pro was clearly in charge.
Norma is one of nineteenth century Italian opera's true masterworks. The Concert Association produced a strong production of this monumental work (in a restrained semi-staging by Mignon Dunn and Richard Barrett). The glorious vocalism of Maria Guleghina and Kate Aldrich made this presentation an evening to remember!