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The important baritone role of Ricardo Forth requires a singer with a suave, voluminous voice of great flexibility. Davide Damiani produced a constricted sound; his pitch frequently wavered. He failed to command the cantilena of the opening scene (in which he was given little support by the voiceless Bruno Robertson of tenor Mark Antonio Sayih). While he improved in later acts, his constant vocal scooping and unattractive sound proved less than adequate in a role that requires the talents of a Gobbi or Milnes in full bloom. One of Damiani's best efforts was the duet 'Suoni la tromba' where he was paired with the stalwart bass of Rosendo Flores as Giorgio Walton. (Richard Stotzel provided a brilliant, clarion trumpet obbligato.) Flores unfurled a deep voice of molten richness with firm, perfectly placed low notes. His beautiful basso cantante is the very essence of bel canto -- a wonderful voice of great agility and flexibility. His scenes with Ms Makarina were frequently riveting! As the disguised French Queen Enrichetta Elizabeth Blake sang with a warm, lovely mezzo-soprano voice.

A scene from 'I Puritani'. Photo © 2005 Steven Caras
A scene from 'I Puritani'. Photo © 2005 Steven Caras

The strong choral and orchestral forces gave a fine performance of Bellini's beautiful ensemble writing. The Palm Beach Opera Orchestra (led by former Cincinnati Symphony concertmaster Eliot Chapo) played splendidly with particularly incisive strings and brilliant brass. Karen Dixon offered sweet toned, elegantly crafted flute solos. Conductor Kamal Khan (a former James Levine assistant) conducted a lively, precise performance. What this performance lacked was what the late conductor Antonio De Almeida once defined as 'that exquisite sense of bad taste' that Italian conductors can bring to this music. That extra idiomatic affinity for bel canto was missing.

Olga Makarina (Elvira) and Davide Damiani (Riccardo) in the Palm Beach Opera production of 'I Puritani'. Photo © 2005 Steven Caras
Olga Makarina (Elvira) and Davide Damiani (Riccardo) in the Palm Beach Opera production of 'I Puritani'. Photo © 2005 Steven Caras

I Puritani is a milestone of the early 19th century operatic repertoire and a monumental undertaking for any opera company. While the Palm Beach Opera version was imperfect, it offered superior choral and orchestral contributions. The Elvira and Arturo of Olga Makarina and Eric Cutler gave promise of great performances to come. The beautiful voices of these two young artists define bel canto!

Copyright © 3 February 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA



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