On the last day of a bustling successful season, Sarasota Opera's artistic director Victor DeRenzi assembled the combined forces of orchestra and singers for a grand finale. Each year, The Verdi Concert provides the maestro with an opportunity to present in performance all the juicy opera arias, ensembles and incidental music that may have been cut, revised, or produced during Giuseppe Verdi's long and storied career.
The promise of the Verdi Cycle is to perform every note Verdi wrote by the end of the 2016 season. This concert seems to polish off many remnants of the substantial opera, "Don Carlos," unsung in the 2009 performances of the La Scala four-act version, and not to be performed next season in the Paris version.
The Act I introduction, Act II Duet, Act IV Finale and Act V Duet gave the audience enough excitement to whet their appetites. We were also reminded what we so enjoyed about singers such as Kevin Short, Marco Nistico and Heath Huberg as Rodrigo, Filippo II and Don Carlos respectively, and Jeffrey Beruan and Jon Jurgens as the Grand Inquisitor and Count of Lerme.
Ballet music, an expected feature of operas in Paris, is often cut from today's productions. Thankfully, DeRenzi included the fanciful Act II ballet from "Don Carlos" which is a wonder of orchestral color and musical imagery. Surtitles followed the details from Verdi's score telling the story of three different pearls, a genie, the God of Coral, and the Spanish court of King Phillip II. Verdi's music, and the performance of this orchestra, was quite delightful, but would have certainly been a stretch for modern sensibilities in the scope of the opera. Reyna Carguill, as Elisabetta, sang a suspenseful duet with Huberg's Don Carlos. An even more powerful pairing was heard with Carguill singing Aida next to a darkly dramatic Amneris sung by Margaret Mezzacappa in "Aida's" Act II duet. Perhaps we will hear more of this exceptional blend in the future. Verdi, in the earlier years, did comply to demands to re-work arias to feature the talents of certain singers. Tenor Hak Soo Kim tackled the florid ornamentation of on such revised aria from "I due Foscari" with aplomb. However, the falsetto, in which the original singer, Mario, excelled, was just beyond the reach of Kim. No matter, he returned with all confidence as the Duke of Mantua in the famous quartet from Rigoletto's Act III with Alexandra Batsios (Gilda), Daryl Freedman (Maddelena) and Kenneth Stavert (Rigoletto.) Dara Hobbs, the outstanding star of this season's "The Flying Dutchman," stood out among her peers yet again in a stunning performance of Pace, pace mio dio from La forza del destino. In full control of a magnificent voice, Hobbs has me convinced she has the makings of a world-class dramatic soprano. Let's just watch her rise. The remainder of the concert was devoted to excerpts from "Simon Boccanegra." The Prologue Chorus and a Romanza sung by bass Young Bok Kim contained only a simplified accompaniment. Tenor Michael Robert Hendrick strained in his Act II aria which had been transposed to a lower key to accommodate the tenor at the premiere. In ensemble, an Act II Trio, with Tamara Acosta (Amelia) and Nistico (Simon Boccanegra), his sound spread in comparison with Nistico's focus. Yet all together with the full force of orchestra, chorus, and Young Bok Kim, Matthew Hanscom, and Jeffrey Beruan there was a mighty statement in the Grand Council Chamber Scene in which Boccanegra calls for peace and love. The chorus, heard on several selections earlier, was placed at full advantage here and Accosta's soprano, sounding at first small, expanded into a exalting reach. Although there was a false start, which DeRenzi quickly remedied, the performance was so strong that an encore of the last section was a welcome end to the season. CONCERT REVIEW THE VERDI CONCERT. Sarasota Opera. Victor DeRenzi, conductor. Rviewed March 23 at the Sarasota Opera House.