Opera Reviews
17 July 2018
Untitled Document

Angela Meade makes an auspicious debut at the Vienna State Opera

by Moore Parker
Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani
Vienna State Opera
18 September 2012

Photo: Wiener Staatsoper / Michael PöhnStairs, stairs, and more stairs - and an evident nightmare for some of the protagonists in this revival of Herbert Wernike's I Vespri Siciliani production.

While imposing to the eye, Wernike's all-encompassing floor-to-ceiling staircase quickly becomes a liability, with singers' hesitant entrances dashed of their elegance and impact - particularly when in descent and wearing full-length robes.

That aside, this, the 41st performance of the 1998 production, transpired to be an interesting evening.

The American soprano Angela Meade has been creating a stir (particularly on the other side of the Atlantic) as the "new Verdi soprano". This revival marked her Vienna debut and, in some respects, it was an auspicious choice - offering challenges for the young singer in which to test her mettle. The voice is indeed destined for this repertoire - wide in range, with ample thrust to the tone, and with a fair degree of agility and dynamic range. In addition, exemplary diction and an acute sense of timing make this an Elvira to be reckoned with.

"Arrigo, ah parle ad un core" was as close to perfection as one could hope for, finely shaped throughout with effortlessly spun pianissimi and a fearless approach in the aria's precarious chromatic scales. Slightly less impressive, the Act 5 Bolero, which had a sense of being carefully paced rather than of thrilling aplomb (and, for the record, without the interpolated top E). However, Meade's reserves and breadth of line in the testing final act trio certainly whet one's appetite for roles such as Amelia (Ballo), the Leonoras, Aida, etc.

Gregory Kunde, stepped in (for the second time in this series) at short notice - winning a well-earned reception as Arrigo. In contrast to this summer's La donna del lago at the Theater an der Wien, this venue (and role) allows Kunde the vocal scope his imposing instrument requires. This nicely-shaped portrayal, rode well on his spinto-sized timbre, ringing top notes, and immaculate intonation. These appearances represent his unofficial debut in the house but I can imagine we shall be seeing more of him here.

A house favourite, and unquestionable asset to the State Opera ensemble, Gabriele Viviani was an ideal foil to the other male leads as Guido di Monforte. His full-throated Italianate baritone and particular ability to invest the recitativi with credibility never fail to make their mark.

Returning to the production as Procida, Ferrucio Furlanetto gave a wonderfully committed performance, bitingly unrelenting in his patriotic ambition, and utilizing every available nuance in his rotund vocal organ to dramatic effect.

Strong contributions too from Alexandru Moisiuc as Sire di Bethune, as well as Marian Talaba, Carlos Osuna and Tae-Joong Yang as Danieli, Tebaldo, and Roberto respectively.

Orchestra and chorus were in spirited form under the guidance of Gianandrea Noseda.

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
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