A Glimpse of Tomorrow’s Opera Stars

United StatesUnited States Rising Stars of 2016: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago / Timothy Myers (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago, 1.4.2017. (JLZ)

This year’s Rising Stars in Concert, presente by Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased the young artists of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. Each of the Center’s fourteen members performed an aria or in an ensemble. While most of the singers have been onstage during the year in some role, these selections gave the performers the chance to exhibit their talents in roles outside the season’s repertoire.

The concert opened gloriously with Jesse Donner’s vivid account of “Von Jugend auf in dem Kapfgefild” from Weber’s Oberon. Donner’s remarkable clarity in the florid passages was matched by his evenly ringing tone in all registers. It was a tour de force and shows Donner to be very accomplished already in his career. He was also extremely persuasive in the scene from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, “Tebja, tebja odnu, Marina,” interacting convincingly with Lauren Decker as Marina. Both singers captured the scene’s emotional pitch, never straining, and maintained the dramatic tension with remarkable style.

Ms. Decker also demonstrated her command in a fine duet with Lindsay Metzger, “Madre!/Mia vita” from the first act of Handel’s Giulio Cesare. Ms. Metzger was also notably effective in her solo, “Deh, per questo istante solo” from the second act of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, showing a nicely rounded sound and distinctive enunciation.

Diana Newman stunned the audience with her subtlety and nuance in “Gold is a fine thing” from Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe. Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi was similarly strong in “No word from Tom” from The Rake’s Progress. Her diction and rhythm made Stravinsky’s intricate scoring come alive, and it would be a pleasure to see her perform the entire opera.

Jonathan Johnson’s successful interpretation of the aria “Povero Ernesto!” from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale captured the audience’s full attention and inspired enthusiastic applause. Johnson easily conquered the composer’s challenges, with his strong legato key in shaping Donizetti’s lines, and with a mature, refined tone.

Timothy Myers conducted the orchestra, and in this varied program, paid excellent attention to details and balance. The pacing was notable for its lack of gaps or pauses between the many excerpts. The orchestra had its own starring moment, in the famous Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut, led by pianist Mario Antonio Marra, also of the Ryan Center. Marra gave an expansive reading, highlighting Puccini’s rich scoring.

The evening was full of strong performances by performers who will become familiar names soon in their careers. Their capacity for impressive solos was matched by their ability to sing together in various duets, trios, and quartets. The concert culminated in the first-act Finale from Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims, for the entire company, done with stylish enjoyment.

James L. Zychowicz

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