<<< << -- 2 -- Karen Haid 'DAPHNE' IN THE DESERT
The singing was quite uneven. Soprano Erin Wall gave a fine performance in the title role. Her voice had the flexibility, strength, and grace to masterfully execute this demanding part. Her two suitors, Garrett Sorenson as Leukippos and Scott MacAllister as Apollo, however, struggled throughout the evening. Perhaps Santa Fe's altitude (nearly 7000 ft or 2132 metres) intimidated the tenors in their difficult roles, but whatever the reason, the resulting performances were poor. In addition, all of the male voices were too often hard to hear over the orchestra. Not helping the situation, the pit musicians did not once reach a true piano throughout the performance. Conductor Kenneth Montgomery seemed to view his job as beating out the basic rhythmic patterns. Perhaps the phrase 'balancing the orchestra with voices' needed to be specifically written into his contract.
Contralto Meredith Arwady, however, didn't have a problem cutting through the orchestration. Her incredibly rich lower register was mesmerizing. With her entrance, all eyes stopped glancing down at the English (or Spanish) subtitles scrolling along on the chairs in front of them and were transfixed on her character. Both physically and musically imposing, Arwady as Daphne's mother was a highlight. She worked into her upper register as the evening progressed, but below the staff her tone was consistently fluid and captivating.
The final transformation scene is one that should be gripping for the audience, but unfortunately from the carrying out of Leukippos' body through to the close, the orchestra didn't hold up its end. The necessary emotional impact was lost, and the pitch was shaky (no pun intended with regard to the repetitive violin figure reminiscent of leaves on the tree). Theatrically changing a person into a tree isn't easy to pull off, but Wall effectively climbed and became part of the tree as her supple voice musically represented her physical transformation. Unfortunately, the production went one step too far with the inclusion of the sprouting of a few smaller trees around the center laurel. The awkwardness of the growth process detracted from the bucolic music that accompanied this metamorphosis to immortal form.
First performed in Dresden in 1938, the Santa Fe Opera gave the American première of Daphne in 1964 and this season marks the fourth time this infrequently performed work has been offered by the company. Performances continue on 2, 8 and 17 August 2007.
Copyright © 30 July 2007
Karen Haid, Las Vegas, USA
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