Stars of Tomorrow Show They Are Actually Stars of Today

United StatesUnited States Lyric Opera of Chicago, “Rising Stars of 2016”: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Michael Christie (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago. 26.3.2016 (JLZ)

Mozart: “Dal tuo gentil sembiante” from Ascanio in Alba (Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi)
Rossini: “À la faveur de cette nuit obscure” from Le comte Ory (Mingjie Lei, Annie Rosen, Diana Newman)
Berlioz: “O blonde Cérès” from Les Troyens (Jonathan Johnson)
Rossini: “Dunque io son?” from Il barbiere di Siviglia (Takaoki Onishi, Lindsay Metzger)
Verdi: “Gran’ Dio!…Oh, de’ verd’anni miei” from Ernani (Anthony Clark Evans)
Britten: “When my cue comes, call me” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Patrick Guetti)
Janáček: “Mamiko, mam tezkou hlavu” from Jenufa (Laura Wilde)
Floyd: “I must be crazy travelin’ with you” from Of Mice and Men (Richard Ollarsaba, Jesse Donner)
Mozart: “Ach, Belmonte! Ach, mein Leben!” from Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Mingjie Lei, Alec Carlson, Diana Newman)
Verdi: Overture from Luisa Miller (Lyric Opera Orchestra)
Strauss: “Sie wollen mich heiraten?” from Arabella (Laura Wilde, Anthony Clark Evans)
Dvořák: “Vidino divina presladka” from Rusalka (Jesse Donner)
Thomas: “Je comprends que la belle aime le militaire” from Le Caïd (Richard Ollarsaba
Poulenc: “Pourquoi tenez-vous ainsi?” from Dialogues des Carmélites (Jonathan Johnson, Annie Rosen, Lindsay Metzger)
Flotow: “Nur näher, blöde Mädchen” from Martha (Alec Carlson, Richard Ollarsaba, Diana Newman, Lindsay Metzger)
Pucccini: “Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” from La rondine (Jonathan Johnson, Laura Wilde, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Alec Carlson, and Ensemble)

The annual Rising Stars in Concert recital by the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is a wonderful opportunity to hear exceptional young artists in major repertoire. While Chicago audiences have already heard many of these musicians during the 2015–2016 season, this event offers the chance to hear their individual talents in a fresh setting. One of the highlights was Patrick Guetti in “When my cue comes, call me,” Bottom’s aria from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Guetti used a full and resonant bass with acting that perfectly underscored the character’s transformation into an ass (of the braying kind). He captured the moment with the effortless skill and panache of a veteran. Richard Ollarsaba gave an equally polished delivery of “Je comprends que la belle aime le militaire” from Thomas’s Le Caïd and seized the attention of the audience with his phrasing, pacing, and suave acting.

Laura Wilde embodied the character of Jenufa in the soliloquy “Mamicko, mam tezkou hlavu,” a tour de force for any soprano, and particularly memorable here. Wilde captured the emotional pitch and musical nuances of the character, adding her personal stamp; she subtly colored the phrases in the first part, while singing the prayer to the Blessed Virgin in the second with powerful intensity. In Iopas’s aria from Les Troyens, Jonathan Johnson demonstrated his confident approach, navigating the treacherous ending with aplomb. Likewise, Jesse Donner gave a polished reading of the prince’s aria from the first act of Rusalka, with his vivid tone and fine dramatic sense. The same could be said of Anthony Clark Evans, who personified Don Carlo in the excerpt from Ernani, and delivered the act-three cavatina with sonorous majesty and commanding musicality.

Of the ensembles, the strongest was the trio from Rossini’s Le comte Ory, which was quite comedically effective. A similar case could be made for “Ach, Belmonte! Ach, mein Leben!” from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which would have been even more winning if the German diction were clearer. Of all, the finale from Puccini’s La rondine was an apt and surprisingly satisfying choice to end the evening.

This year’s concert benefited from deft stagings by Matthew Ozawa, who adapted the set from Lyric’s recent production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. The entrances and exits were timed expertly, with the help of adroit lighting design. Michael Christie led the Lyric Opera Orchestra with finesse, and in the overture to Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Ryan Center accompanist Mario Marra conducted with style. All in all, the 2016 recital was a fine showcase of young talent and a wonderful cap to the current season.

James L. Zychowicz

The Ryan Opera Center Recital Series broadcasts on WFMT (98.7) on the first Tuesday of each month at 8:00 p.m. Among other Ryan Center events announced: a July 27 concert as part of the Grant Park Music Festival.


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