Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Met Council Finals Mid Atlantic Region

Sunday's Met Council Mid-Atlantic finals were dominated by a group of exceptional bass/baritones, with all but one of those competing walking away with a prize. In an afternoon brimming with talent, the low voices set themselves apart with polished, distinctive voices, and natural dramatic flair.

Anthony Schneider, a first place winner who will continue on to semifinals in New York, brings to the table a unique, resonant sound, well represented in Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra, and demonstrated agility and personality in "Quand la flamme de l'amour" from Bizet's La Jolie Fille de Perth. His co-first place finalist, tenor Jonas Hacker, first offered Una Furtiva Lagrima, demonstrating formidable control in a series of impeccably executed dynamic effects, though his voice lacked that final touch of warmth needed for this music. The judges wisely chose "Here I stand" from Rake's Progress as a second aria, and there were no qualifications here--Hacker's incisive power and facility with text seems a natural fit for exciting Britten and other 20th century fare.

Second place went to bass Timothy Bruno, a current young WNO young artist this season, who has participated in the various young artist-staffed new work presentations. Bruno's pitch-black sound is distinctive for sure, though it was a perhaps a heavier color than one wants in his first aria, "Solche hergelaufne Laffen" from Mozart's Entfuhrung. Another round of Boccanegra fared better, with Bruno producing a very exciting second helping of "Il lacerato spirito."

Third place was also a tie. Baritone Andrew Lovato was perhaps my personal favorite among the considerable bass-baritone talent on display. "Ya va Lyublyu" from Pique Dame was devastating, Lovato carefully shading his voice to great effect throughout the work. The Tanzlied from Die Tote Stadt was a fun second choice, and a great chance to show off the capabilities of perhaps the most refined low-voice onstage, though it would have benefited from more subtlety.

He shared honors with baritone Armando Pina, who turned in a winning, if slightly generic, sound. His lead-off "Ya vas lyublyu" couldn't quite compete with the detailed pathos of Lovato's account but was nonetheless an impressive assumption. "Hai gia vinta la causa" was similarly sturdy.

Mezzo Briana Hunter was perhaps a surprising omission from the winners circle. In "Elle et la, pres de lui" from Thomas' Mignon, she showed off an ample, compelling sound, only marred by a bit of inconsistency in the high notes, some of which sounded great, while others felt a tad uncomfortable. Her follow-up, "Una voce poco fa," represented the most accomplished coloratura singing of the afternoon, and demonstrated a winning stage personality. Soprano Raquel Gonzalez also stood out among the women, with a sophisticated, smoky sound in "Come in quest'ora bruna" and "Stridono lassu" from Pagilacci.

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