Operagasm Exclusive Review: Amleto Brings It at BCO
by Wade Davis
On Thursday night, Baltimore Concert Opera proved that a concert performance of an opera can be more than just a “park and bark.” It can be a fashion show, a true revelation of emotion and an all-out celebration of the pure musical drama which excites us all! I can’t even describe the magnitude of depth and feelings that each character brought to his or her respective roles this evening, but I shall certainly try.
For those who know the “Hamlet” of Thomas, this is NOT that beautiful fluffy French style we love; it’s Verdi (yes, there’s a Brindisi!) with leanings toward verismo. This was Franco Faccio’s 1865 masterpiece that, aside from being produced that year at Teatro Felice and once for the 1870-71 La Scala season, has not been produced again until now. It is truly Maestro Anthony Barrese’s baby.
Barrese notes that “Faccio was a conductor first and knew how to really orchestrate.” Though he was conducting a single piano, Maestro Barrese conjured up a beautiful myriad of sounds and if you really listened, you could certainly hear an orchestra. I can only imagine what care he must have lavished on his excellent cast of singers and the chorus. There were truly thrilling sounds made by all.
First off, what’s amazing is the way in which Faccio’s music truly illuminated Shakespeare’s characters and their development. Even the smaller roles of Polonio, Orazio, and Marcello (Jeffrey Gates, Eric Bash, and Travis Lucas, respectively) were sung with such clarity and authority that they stepped into the foreground dramatically with our main protagonists.
As Ofelia’s brother Laerte, Rolando Sanz delivered beautiful tone and a true stage presence that made the role a focal point. He had many an interesting moment with the other characters, but his interaction with his sister was at its finest when he looked first shocked then utterly pitiful witnessing her madness.
Caroline Worra as Queen Gertrude is truly one of the most fantastic sopranos I’ve heard live. She has a rock-solid voice from top to bottom and colors to spare!! And she looked every inch the evil guilty queen with her brazen, red, off-the-shoulder gown. Her Act III aria brought the house down.
Ofelia was sung by Abla Lynn Hamza. She has a lovely voice which rang out through the hall at it’s highest and brightest. (In addition to her singing, she made incredible fashion choices! Her gown was ombré dark blue to watery blue which I thought was a fabulous foreshadowing of what was to come.) I’d love to hear her in this role with orchestra! Her duet with Amleto was filled with nuance and girlish naiveté, which was later almost heartbreaking when she went mad and imagined her father’s funeral before drowning herself in a brook (in a white nightgown.) Even semi-staged, you felt sorry for this poor girl at the end of it all.
The King Claudio was given a rich and complex portrayal by baritone Shannon De Vine. I don’t know why I haven’t of heard him until now, but he’s definitely been added to my list of Barihunks! He sang with such bite and menace, yet tenderly when he rebuked himself for murdering his brother. Apparently, he sings Escamillo in Carmen! He can sing every baritone role out there as far as I’m concerned, and I honestly would try to be there for them all!
The shade of the assassinated King, Amleto’s father, sung by Matthew Curran, who doubled as Luciano was absolutely terrifying vocally, which I believe was Faccio’s aim. Curran’s voice sounded beautifully cavernous and appropriate for a ghost of a King. I hope Curran will sing the Commendatore in Don Giovanni soon. He has just the right presence and voice for it.
Now the raison d’être of the piece: Amleto. You really will not find a voice like Alex Richardson’s for miles around. He has that beautiful, old-school “ping” to his sound that makes everything just so meltingly gorgeous and recalls the great tenors of yesteryear. It was a real treat to hear the great monologue “To be, or not to be” with such pathos and vulnerability after watching him rage and lash out tenor-rifically all over the place over his father’s murder.
All in all, it was a fantastic night for opera fans and newcomers to the art. We witnessed an American premiere together. There is truly nothing like being in an atmosphere of such great expectation and absolute joy at the marvel of experiencing something of this magnitude. Many many thanks to Operagasm and Baltimore Concert Opera for inviting me to this historic and monumental occasion. It shall truly not be forgotten.
Everyone, do yourselves a favor. Go see Faccio’s Amleto this Sunday before the cast takes it to Opera Southwest.
Wade Davis was born in New York in 1982. At the age of seven, he began studying the cello in the String Project at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, South Carolina. After two years of studying privately with Ashley Gobbel, Wade began studying with Dr. Robert Jesselson, Professor of Cello at the University of South Carolina. Wade was the winner of the South Carolina Philharmonic Jr. Young Artist’s Prize in 1998 and the South Carolina All-State Orchestra Concerto Competition winner for 2001. Wade’s studies continued with Dr. Jesselson for eight years until Wade’s graduation in the Inaugural Class of 2001 at the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He then attended the North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem. After two years of tutelage with Marcy Rosen, Wade transferred to the College of Charleston where he completed his undergraduate studies with Professor Natalia Khoma. He then obtained both a Master’s Degree in Baroque Cello Performance and a Graduate Performance Degree in Historical Cello from Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University as a student of John Moran.