Last night at Central Park Summerstage the New York Metropolitan Opera introduced us to two rising stars and one superstar in waiting in a recital of Opera standards and Broadway Standards and only Soprano Lisette Oropesa was a complete revelation. The reason this was such a hot ticket was the return of Baritone Paulo Szot to opera after over a year (I saw it in July 2008) in his Tony winning turn in the revival of “South Pacific”. It made Szot a star and his turn in the Mets production of Shostakovich’s “The Nose” early next year might make him a superstar but last night probably won’t do it. Before the intermission Szot lacked a swagger, he didn’t command the stage, and while the good looking Brazilian had every reason to be at ease he was nondescript in his Mozart arias and both Oropesa and Szot didn’t quite thrill in a duet.
By herself, but, Soprano Oropesa is a sizzle. Dressed in a drop dead gorgeous purple gown and looking young and certain of her gifts, she ignited the beautiful but static evening with her first solo, a breathtaking “Ach, ich liebte”. The Aria is about a woman telling how she was heartbroken because the one she loved wasn’t there. I don’t know about you guys but when I am in pain I feel totally alive and Oporesa captures the aliveness of misery. She reaches for the upper registry of her voice, holds it, and descends with complete control, not a quaver, not a slip: it is a truly moving moment and we hadn’t had one before. Tenor Alek Sharder comes into his own a couple of songs later with a virile and powerful Rossini’s “Cessa di peu resistere”. The first half ends with all three singers joining in on Zitti, zitti, piano, piano” with some of the sole musical accompaniment, pianist Vlad Iftinca’s, fluid playful playing.
Paulo Szot opens the second half with a commanding “Votre Toast” (you know, the toreador song from “Carmen” -the moral equivalent of a cover band playing “Stairway to Heaven”) and he settles in through the rest of the concert. Shrader sings an indifferent “Maria” but Lisette follows the highlight of the evening where the piano drops out entirely during “Les Oiseaux dans le charmille” and she sings to the skies with a glorious and fun “I Could Have Danced All Night”. Szot sings “Some Enchanted Evening” for, by my reckoning, something like the 500th time on this enchanted evening. He follows it with an even better “If Ever I Should Leave You” and is at his best with the last song of the evening “Besame Mucho”.
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