By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER
Published: November 14, 2006
There was a festive atmosphere at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation’s annual gala on Sunday at Avery Fisher Hall. This was largely because Peter Gelb, the new general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, has raised the iron curtain that previously barred singers under Met contract from appearing at fund-raising benefits.
Nan Melville for The New York Times
Patricia Racette and the conductor Asher Fisch at Avery Fisher Hall.
Forum: Classical Music
It seems fitting that Mr. Gelb, who has recently reached out to passersby in Times Square and to David Letterman’s audience, has made peace with the Tucker Foundation, which supports young opera singers. And Sunday’s enthusiastic audience could enjoy prime Met artists, some singing roles they had not performed in New York.
That included the Boris of René Pape, the dashing German bass, who with his regal bearing and chiseled features looks like a man born to be king. In the coronation scene from Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” Mr. Pape’s basso cantante sounded arrestingly powerful, although he was rather stentorian in the lighthearted “So in Love” from Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate.”
Another New York debut role was Patricia Racette’s convincing Desdemona in Act III, Scene II of Verdi’s “Otello.” But Ms. Racette, winner of the 1998 Richard Tucker Award, given to an artist on the “threshold of a major career,” sounded even better in “L’altra notte in fondo” from Boito’s “Mefistofele.” Dressed in a shimmering gold dress, she vividly conveyed Marguerite’s anguish, her creamy, gleaming voice spinning out expressive phrases with perfectly controlled vibrato.
James Morris, bass-baritone, sang an emotive, powerful “Ves tabar spit” from Rachmaninoff’s “Aleko” and a chilling “Credo” from Verdi’s “Otello.” Samuel Ramey, the veteran bass, sang “Ascolta. S’agita il bosco ... Ecco il mondo” from “Mefistofele” with devilish flair and slightly frayed lower notes.
The tenor lineup included José Cura of Argentina, singing with swaggering machismo “Tutto parea sorridere ... Si, de’Corsari il fulmine,” from “Il Corsaro” by Verdi.
Marcello Giordani sang “Un dì all’azzurro spazio” from “Andrea Chénier” with ardent, flowing passion, although he sounded slightly forced in “Vicino a te.” He performed that duet (also from “Andrea Chénier”) with Aprile Millo, the soprano who won the 1985 Richard Tucker Award and here sounded somewhat metallic.
The young Maltese lyric tenor Joseph Calleja offered an expressive “Ah! Lève-toi soleil” from Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” with youthful passion and occasionally strained high notes. He also sang Alfredo in excerpts from “La Traviata” alongside the tortured Violetta of Elizabeth Futral, the excellent coloratura soprano, who looked glamorous in her strapless black Versace gown.
It was a good night for sopranos. Angela Marambio sang “Ecco l’oride campo” from “Un ballo in maschera” with an appealingly robust, warm and pure voice, while Sondra Radvanovsky brought dramatic flair and a rich, lustrous sheen to “Ernani, Ernani involami” from “Ernani.”
Lawrence Brownlee, winner of the 2006 Tucker Award, was absent because of a previous commitment. Instead, the program featured the sextet from “Lucia di Lammermoor” with other talented young singers supported by the foundation.
Asher Fisch led members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York Choral Society in rousing performances marred only by a few tempo inconsistencies. Indeed, the evening seemed to be marked by an enthusiastic spirit of collaboration.