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sábado, outubro 28, 2006

Three Notable Debuts, One Grimly Realistic Opera

Published: October 28, 2006
Usually at the Metropolitan Opera, a single debut among the leads or on the podium is enough to create advance buzz. But on Wednesday night, when Otto Schenk’s grimly realistic 1989 production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” returned to the repertory, there were three notable debuts: the young Malta-born tenor Joseph Calleja, who sang the Duke of Mantua; Ekaterina Siurina, a lovely Russian coloratura soprano, as Gilda; and the experienced Austrian conductor Friedrich Haider. The Met veteran in the cast was the powerful Spanish baritone Juan Pons, who has been presenting his impetuous, if vocally blustery, portrayal of Rigoletto at the house since 1990.

Perhaps debut-night jitters affected the three newcomers, who left me with mixed reactions. After eliciting appropriately dark and weighty playing during the solemn orchestra prelude, the animated Mr. Haider charged into the opening party scene at the duke’s palace, setting a breathless tempo that caused the chorus to scramble for words and rattled Mr. Calleja, it seemed, during “Questa o quella.” This aria, the caddish duke’s declaration that all alluring women interest him, is meant to be jaunty and carefree. Here it sounded nervous and vehement. As the performance progressed, though, Mr. Haider settled down, drawing some articulate and more calmly paced playing from the orchestra.

I want to hear the highly touted Mr. Calleja again because his singing on this night was curiously uneven. His voice is rich and expressive; his sound has body and carries well. There is a slightly nasal quality to his tone that sometimes came across as a stamp of character but at other times seemed evidence of tightness, especially in his top notes. And his execution was overly casual, as in his tendency to clip off the endings of phrases. Still, there are winning qualities to his singing and he projects youthful energy.

As Gilda, Rigoletto’s overprotected daughter, Ms. Siurina proved almost Mr. Calleja’s opposite. She gave a technically exquisite account of this demanding coloratura soprano role, singing with a clear, sweet tone throughout her range, dispatching coloratura roulades and shimmering high notes with ease. Yet her singing was cautious and lacked temperament. Even in the anguished scene when she confesses to her father the shame of succumbing to the lecherous duke, Ms. Siurina was still the innocent Gilda of Act One.

The hired assassin Sparafucile was the solid bass Paata Burchuladze, and his feisty sister Maddalena was the rich-voiced mezzo- soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera.

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