Opera.uk, January 2012
Martin Bernheimer
Ciléa: Adriana Lecouvreur, New York, Carnegie Hall, November 8, 2011
Adriana Lecouvreur
The reports of the demise of the OPERA ORCHESTRA OF NEW YORK two years ago seem to have been exaggerated. The institution-to call it a company stretches credibility a bit-held forth at CARNEGIE HALL on November 8 with a star-studded reading (term used advisedly) of Cilea's beguilingly tawdry Adriana Lecouvreur.

The primary raison d'être had to be the soprano in the oh-so-grateful title role. A revealing, unblushing, three-page biographical entry in the programme magazine began thus. "Superstar Angela Gheorghiu, the most glamorous and gifted opera singer of our time, was born in the small Romanian town Adjud." The self-proclaimed super-diva (who, despite original plans, is conspicuously absent from the Met this season) apparently takes her publicity very seriously. She swept onstage, and off, with imperious grandeur, modelled two lavish evening gowns, fussing constantly with each, waved warmly to her adoring fans and stressed indulgent sentiment whenever the music hinted at such a possibility-also sometimes when it did not. Yet for all her odd manners and odder mannerisms, she sang artfully, with sweep, ardour, sensitivity and shimmering top notes (most of them at the wonted pitch).

Jonas Kaufmann partnered her as a Maurizio of glorious passion counterbalanced by uncommon introspection. He rang the old rafters effortlessly when climaxes beckoned yet managed a great deal of delicate dynamic shading. He re-established himself as a master of elegantly focused pianissimo phrases, not to mention crescendo and decrescendo surprises. Anita Rachvelishvili, though hardly polished or subtle, sang with overwhelming opulence as the Principessa di Bouillon. Ambrogio Maestri sounded like a prime Verdi baritone (Rigoletto, Mr Gelb?) as the sympathetic Michonnet. The secondary roles were decently cast, with Nicola Pamio a needlessly luxurious import from Italy for the crusty plaints of the Abate.

Alberto Veronesi, the rather finicky conductor, favoured brio over languor, except when Gheorghiu dictated otherwise. Still, after all those years of time-beating by the otherwise worthy impresaria Eve Queler, it was good to experience a genuine pro on the podium.


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