Teatro di San Carlo's Mozart and Bel Canto Gala featured works by Wolfgang A. Mozart, Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Vincenzo Bellini. The star-studded cast included Nadine Sierra, Pretty Yende, Maria Agresta, Francesco Demuro, and Ildar Abdrazakov. They were beautifully accompanied by the orchestra and choir of Teatro di San Carlo and were directed by Giacomo Sagripanti and Gea Garatti Ansini.
By Diana Amati
To begin the program, the orchestra of Teatro di San Carlo gave a beautiful performance of the overture from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a very special musical performance from the minute the orchestra began playing their first note.
Maestro Giacomo Sagripanti brought out enthusiastic vigor from the orchestra yet also the delicate sweetness that Mozart’s overture deserves. The full range and use of dynamics was ever present and allowed the audience the unique ability to hear this overture for the first time in a new and exciting way, even if they had heard it countless other times in the past. What a wonderful mastery of communicating emotion through music without needing the use of words.
The second selection also featured Mozart, the duettino, “La ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni. Ildar Abdrazakov’s voice filled the house with refined strength, immediately drawing the audience in and had them yearning for more. He set up the scene beautifully for Nadine Sierra whose voice elegantly soared and was well-matched with Abdrazakov.
Pretty Yende’s, “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia was particularly stunning, prominently showcasing her skill and prowess in the bel canto repertoire. She perfected her coloratura runs with exact precision which made such a difficult aria seem effortless.
Francesco Demuro was a highlight of the evening; his voice was smooth and supple, yet had the brightness and strength to carry over the robust orchestra in Donizetti’s, “Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fete” from La Fille du régiment. He has the kind of voice that opera purists crave when they want to hear bel canto; it was refreshing to witness such passion for technique and Italian tradition.
One of the most special moments of the evening was Nadine Sierra and Pretty Yende’s duettino, “Canzonetta sull’aria” from Act III of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. The unique depth and color of Yende’s voice matched beautifully with Nadine’s sparkling and shimmering high notes as they both soared with elegance and grace. The beautiful duo gave a truly touching and heartfelt performance and was no doubt the most memorable part of the evening.
Maria Agresta stepped onto the stage like a queen who owned it- she was a remarkable display of beauty and strength. Her voice took the audience to a new and exciting place, taking us on a journey filled with drama and intrigue. Her “E Sara in questi orribili momenti...Vivi, ingrato, a lei d’accanto’ was absolutely glorious. After such a robust performance, it was difficult to patiently await her “Casta Diva” which she then preceded with after the orchestra performed the overture from Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.
The Orchestra of Teatro di San Carlo performed the overture with passion and excitement, making the audience eagerly wait in anticipation for what was to follow. The strings really made this overture particularly exquisite, allowing for dramatic rise in dynamics carrying the sound through the house with fortitude.
Maria Agresta embodied Norma in her performance of “Casta Diva” from her full, depth tone to the way she navigated her delicate coloratura passages. What was most obvious to the audience was Agresta’s innate gift- her beautiful vocal tone which is perfectly showcased in the bel canto repertoire. She is a true artist, a gifted soprano with the heart that makes the music come alive, leaving the audience forever changed. She made us feel something; isn’t that what opera is all about?
Ildar Abdrazakov’s voice in “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” from Don Giovanni was smooth yet strong; his sound was consistent through his lines and the audience felt they could sit back and relax with contentment. It was indeed a beautiful performance.
Francesco Demuro again showed us his love and passion for Italian opera in “A te, o cara, amor talora,” in which he gave a heart-wrenching performance that brought the audience to their knees. He was completely selfless in giving us all he had to give- it was apparent he had an emotional connection to the words and meanings.
The Orchestra of Teatro di San Carlo performed the Sinfonia from Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi with excitement and enthusiasm.
Franceso Demuro and Pretty Yende performed “Esulti pur la barbara” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore” with a clever use of dynamics and tempo changes which caused movement to flow and carry us away to new imaginations. We listened with pure joy and bliss as Yende and Demuro delighted us with stunning coloratura. Their facial expressions and emotional artistry made the duet an even more fun and entertaining experience that the audience enjoyed.
Ildar Abdrazakov took to the stage to sing, “La calunnia è un venticello.” While he had some difficulty attacking the notes quickly, he drew us back in to the performance with his overall beautiful sound and smooth lines and won us back with his robust and full last note which soared through the house.
Nadine Sierra is the perfect Lucia di Lammermoor- not only does she have the beautiful vocal tone necessary for Italian bel canto but she has the heart and artistry to match. Her technique is unrivaled as she commands her coloratura passages with ease and she sparkles in her spinning high notes. Sierra’s scene della pazzia was such an example of an artist taking bel canto seriously and giving the audience the performance Donizetti’s opera deserves. It was the perfect end to a beautiful concert full of such wonderfully gifted artists.