Seldom in today's musical world do I hear an operatic performance where all of the major roles are sung by really fine singers. Last night at Chicago Lyric Opera was the exception.
Their production of Verdi's La Traviata last night was filled with singing that warmed the heart of a voice teacher and musician. Beautiful, free, expressive singing was the high standard that was set and met by Marina Rebeka, the Violetta, Joseph Calleja, Alfredo, and Quinn Kelsey, Giorgio Germont.
Ms. Rebeka is a Latvian soprano who possesses a voice of great beauty that will do anything she asks of it. You want a brilliant high note? It's there. How about the same note pianissimo? It's also there. Her vocal range of dynamics and color in the voice reminded me of my all time favorite soprano Montserrat Caballe. She is simply wonderful.
Mr. Calleja comes from Malta and was Gramophone's Artist of the Year in 2012. And with good reason. His beautiful tenor voice can scale the heights at every dynamic level with great ease. He is a fine actor and musician.
Mr. Kelsey is a native of Hawaii. I have seldom heard the role of Georgio Germont sung with such ease and with such a limpid tone. His high G flat is to die for!
Chicago Lyric's stage apparently has room for only one set. As in the recent production of Parsifal, which I did not care for, there is a cyclorama at the rear of the stage which serves as a backdrop for the entire opera, being varied with lighting and shadow play. Here is a case where the scenery is immaterial. The singing alone carries the story and totally engages the listener.
The smaller roles were well sung by former members of the Ryan Opera Center, for the most part. The costumes and puppets were gorgeous and
imaginative and were designed by Cait O'Connor.
I was simply blown away by the singing which was never covered by the fine orchestra conducted by Massimo Zanetti. I am assuming that the size of the stage and orchestra pit is much smaller than that of the Met, resulting in fewer instruments. Or maybe the conductors at Chicago Lyric just don't attempt to drown out the singers, as is often the case at the Met. I am sure that singers feel free to sing with ease and at all possible dynamic levels in this house. Too often at the Met it is a battle between the orchestra and the singer where the orchestra wins. 100 to 1 is a tough competition.
All in all this was a glorious evening at the opera. Tonight David and I will hear Music of the Baroque perform Mendelssohn's Elijah.
So much wonderful music here in Chicago and only twenty minutes from home!