A Parade of Tomorrow’s Stars

United StatesUnited States Lyric Opera of Chicago, Rising Stars in Concert: Emily Birsan (soprano), J’nai Bridges (mezzo soprano), Tracy Cantin (soprano), Kiri Deonarine (soprano), David Govertsen (bass-baritone), Cecelia Hall (soprano), Bernard Holcomb (tenor), John Irvin (tenor), Joseph Lim (baritone), Will Liverman (baritone), Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, Ward Stare (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago, 13.4.2013. (JLZ)

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center offers its annual Rising Stars in Concert to showcase its young artists, and this year the memorable event included both talented singers and a rich selection of repertoire. Chicago audiences have already heard many of these performers during the 2012–2013 season, and this concert demonstrated their abilities even more prominently.

Among the highlights was David Govertsen, who gave a fervent and accomplished “Là de ciel nell’arcano profondo” from the first act of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Govertsen’s technique allowed the florid passages to emerge resonantly, and his command of style was as convincing as his effortless delivery. He deserves to be heard in such a role more often. With tenor Bernard Holcomb, Govertsen also performed the duet “Mais ce Dieu… À mois les plaisirs” from the first act of Gounod’s Faust. Govertsen was equally strong here, and gave the role of Méphistophéles fitting gravity. With his rich tenor, Holcomb was engaging as Faust. Holcomb also performed the cavatina-cabaletta “Parmi veder le lagrime / Possente amor mi chiama” from the second act of Verdi’s Rigoletto with convincing, vibrant style.

In addition, Kiri Deonarine gave an outstanding performance of Zerbinetta’s aria “Großmächtige Prinzessin” from Richard Strauss’s Ariadne aus Naxos. Deonarine’s delivery had the right tone, both musically and dramatically. Beyond the high register required, Deonarine has an equally appealing middle register, so that the runs and florid passages were as clear as the more declamatory sections.

Likewise, Emily Birsan was compelling as Violetta in two excerpts from La traviata’s second-act duet with Germont (here sung by Joseph Lim) and, later in the program, the familiar “Sempre libera” from the first act (with John Irvin offstage as Alfredo). Birsan’s voice and stage presence fit the role, and in the second-act duet, she gradually opened her sound to match Violetta’s—a clearly audible dramatic turn. Lim’s Germont was somewhat aloof, with a sense of formality. At times both Birsan and Lim sounded restrained by the orchestra, which sometimes seemed to lack the same intensity of the two singers. With “Sempre libera,” Birsan gave a fine reading, especially in the florid passages, if at times her interpretation could have benefited from a more fluid sense of rhythm.

The famous duet from Bizet’s Pearlfishers, “Au fond du temple saint,” was sung by John Irvin as Nadir and Will Liverman as Zurga, with good ensemble and remarkable balance, rendering the text with welcome clarity. J’nai Bridges and Tracy Cantin brought style to the second-act duet from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, “Vedrai, piccolo amor…Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio.” Cantin’s strong voice gave Cio-Cio San a rich, full-bodied sound, with Bridges’ Suzuki giving her equally reliable support, with technique matching Puccini’s demands.

Joseph Lim sang the aria “Kto mozhet” from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta with conviction. Cecelia Holland offered a subtle and nuanced reading of “Scherza infida” from Handel’s Ariodante, which matched the intensity of John Irvin’s interpretation of “L’amour! L’amour! / Ah! Lève-toi, soleil” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. In a digression to the symphonic repertoire, J’nai Bridges sang the “Urlicht” movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. The evening’s final number brought the entire ensemble together in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, a fitting conclusion. Ward Stare conducted, and made a valiant effort to highlight the individual characteristics of each piece in a challenging and ultimately successful program.

James L. Zychowicz