This is a review of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, October 2008:
... But as is the case in any revival of a popular work, the main issue here was the singing. Gallardo-Domás and Shicoff had dynamic onstage chemistry and provided most of the evening's vocal fireworks. Gallardo-Domás, the Chilean soprano known for her portrayals of Puccini's heroines, gave a wrenching performance every bit as compelling as her star turn in Anthony Minghella's 2006 production of Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera. Her idiosyncratic, distinctive voice takes some getting used to, but here it served her well. Aside from a few outbursts that were too big, her singing seemed effortlessly supple. At times her quivery, emotion-tinged singing had a pop quality, but she managed to curb her more diva-like tendencies: her opening aria, "Vedete, io son fedele" sounded both noble and vulnerable.
Her des Grieux did not make such a striking first impression. Now fifty-nine years old, Shicoff showed his age, even more so alongside the wonderful (and young) tenor Michael Spyres, who was singing Edmondo. Shicoff is still capable of producing a beautiful tone, but his voice has lost some of its former agility: there was a labored quality to Act I's "Tra voi, belle," and the orchestra sometimes swallowed him whole. Early in the performance, Shicoff's transitions between registers were uneasy, and he landed some high notes weakly. While Gallardo-Domás tore through passages with near-reckless abandon, Shicoff seemed keen to slow things down, taking his arias with graceful maturity.
Over the course of the evening, however, Shicoff achieved parity with his costar. By Act III he sounded every bit as impassioned in his lyric urgency as in his famed accounts of Don José and Lenski. Both artists delivered a shattering Act IV that combined remarkably brazen singing with convincing acting: Gallardo-Domás forced high notes out almost defiantly as she sputtered to her death.
Massimo Cavalletti was a smoothly powerful Lescaut; Stephen Bronk brought a wonderfully villainous tinge to the cunning Geronte de Ravoir.
In the pit, Patrik Ringborg led a spirited - if at times oversaturated - account of Puccini's first popular score. The famous Act III intermezzo was especially accomplished in its balanced lushness.?
(Met Opera Guild, 22.10.2008)
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