Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Recommended Posts

Seattle Opera just concluded its run of Donizetti's "Mary Stuart" last night. I saw it and Friday's performance, with two casts for Elizabeth and Leicester. It really should have been called "Mary and Elizabeth," because Elizabeth owns much of the first act and the first part of the second.

Two Mary's were cast, and while I knew Joyce El-Khoury had replaced Serena Farnocchia opening night and then performed it again the next day for the Sunday matinee, I didn't realize she'd be singing all seven performances in fifteen days. On Friday she had a two-day rest, and I'm not sure if was also the difference between sitting in the first row of the Second Tier (Friday) vs. under the overhang of the First Tier (last night), but her tone was brighter on Friday. However, it was far from a "Take one for the team" performance: it was a tour de force by a singer with top-notch technique. The nuances and and range of emotion expressed that were present on Friday were integral to her performance on Saturday. She sounded like her voice did exactly what she wanted. Alone, either performance was a privilege to hear without any back-story. She's singing Desdemona at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and how I wish I could hear her sing in my favorite opera. Lucky people in Amsterdam, where she sang two roles recently.

Talbot doesn't have a lot to sing -- he's in and out as the plot needs him -- but especially in Weston Hurt's last scene with El-Khoury before Mary is led to her death, he spanned a wide emotional range. He was particularly imposing when he confronted Mary about Babington with the sternness and directly that I'd expect from Cecil, which had to have cost him, given how much he loved her, and they sounded great together.

Soprano Keri Alkema sang Elizabeth on Friday night, and sang beautifully. It's a hard role, because the singer has to fight the petty, willful character that's written -- as Elza van den Heever, who sang the role at the Met, said in an interview that her music is so angry -- but she was always engaging and had full command of her voice. (She's singing the role in Edmonton in April.) I know that Seattle audiences are especially loyal to graduates of the now-defunct Young Artists Program, but I've never felt the Mary Elizabeth Williams love. I find her voice unwieldy and without a lot of technical control. She was at her best and exciting, though, in the trio with Hurt and Michael Todd Simpson (Cecil), another former Seattle Young Artist with a beautiful, deep, resonant baritone voice. (If I had only heard him in this, I would have thought he was a bass.)

We were again blessed with two wonderful tenors. Andrew Owens sang on Friday night with great ardency in a beautiful, ringing tone. John Tessier, who sang on Saturday night, is a more refined, Mozartian singer with a lot of vocal subtlety and nuance. For the role, while Evans was a joy to hear, as a character, while I could see both queens being smitten by him while he was in the room with that Cherubino- or Octavian-like engagement with the present, but with a man's virility, it was harder to imagine that he'd survive very long without doing something really stupid impetuous and falling directly into a trap, a male Mary. (If Babbington had been a role, he would have made a great Babbington.) On the other hand, it was very possible to imagine Tessier playing all of those subtle intrigues among the courtiers and standing up to Cecil and living to talk about it. He was a very believable adult.

The chorus was magnificent, one of the musical jewels of the city. Carlo Montanaro led the orchestra in a driving performance that sometimes covered the singers. I think the stage director, Kevin Newbury, hates tenors, because they often seemed to land downstage middle-left, just behind the brass section. The staging was on the static side: it was built around two wheeled staircases with a balcony of sorts: an ornate wooden one for Elizabeth and a metal one with bars that also served as Mary's prison under the staircase, with Elizabeth ascending the stairs and lording over her. That kind of approached worked fine for Rinaldo at the Met in the '80's, but for this opera, the larger-than-life aspect lost its bloom and the opportunities for intimacy were lost.

I was very happy to have heard some great singing. It was also lovely to see Alkema applaud El-Khoury at the curtain calls, and to see El-Khoury kiss her hand before they joined hands to take their bows and to see Evans do the same for El-Khoury.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...