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Opera Orchestra of New York, Eve Queler, Music Director

Carnegie Hall, February 27, 2008

Vicenzo Bellini, La Sonnambula

Eglise Gutierrez, Amina

Dimitry Korchak, Elvino

Ferruccio Furlanetto, Count Rodolfo

Elisabeth Caballero, Lisa

Laura Vlasak Nolen, Teresa

Brian Kontes, Alessio

Luke Grooms, A Notary

Ira Siff, Stage Director

Arlene B. Isaacs February 28, 2008
If you were in Carnegie Hall on February 27, attending The Opera Orchestra of New York’s performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” you were indeed fortunate. Founder/Conductor Eve Queler established the company in 1971, and since then it has provided an annual series in Carnegie Hall in which the Maestra has conducted over 90 operas. OONY is one of New York City’s cultural phenomena. Long noted for important discoveries of repertoire and singers, each performance at Carnegie Hall is judged a “must attend” event for serious opera-goers from around the world and loyal subscribers who convene during intermissions to exchange insights, reminiscences, and comments.

While other groups have fallen by the wayside, OONY prevails, and with great justification. Queler has given critical early exposure to many young singers who have gone on to become the foremost artists of our time: José Carreras, Renée Fleming, James Morris, and Deborah Voigt, to name a few. American premieres OONY has performed include Puccini’s Edgar with Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Scotto; Boito’s Nerone with James Morris and Pablo Elvira; and Smetana’s Libuse with Gabriela Benacková and Paul Plishka. Long neglected works such as Wagner’s Rienzi, Verdi’s I Lombardi, Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles, and Catalani’s La Wally has had great success with the loyal audience. Their latest performance is only one more justification for their longevity.

Cuban-American soprano Eglise Gutierrez, in a charming white taffeta gown with floating chiffon panels, was the evening’s Amina. (She has recently sung bel canto roles throughout Europe to great success, from Trieste, Italy to Finland, Covent Garden, London, Madrid, Hamburg and Montreal as well as the United States and has numerous prestigious future engagements.)

Russian-born tenor Dimitry Korchak (Elvino), recipient of two prizes at Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in Los Angeles has delighted opera aficionados in his work with the world’s greatest conductors in a range of roles.

This young couple could have been viewed with excitement by teen-age audiences who rush to see the latest hot young “stars.” The lovers were very well-matched. She is beautiful, he is handsome. Both are lithe, and agile. Their “acting” was completely organic and sincere. From their opening notes they were affecting. Every, gesture, every turn, nuance was spell-binding—a rarity on opera stages today...AND they know how to sing. They were totally engaging. Both are secure in technique. Their vocal colors, nuances permeated every note, every phrase of their singing. Their fioratura was effortless. Diminuendi, ralentandi, and carefully developed crescendi were beautifully executed. (In his timbre and finesse, Mr. Korchak reminds me of the young, great Alfredo Krause.) Both were able to spin out secure top notes: dozens of high E flats for Ms. Guttierez and an abundance of high Cs. Mr. Korschak also managed this difficult tessitura, even notes above high C...and with panache!

This was a truly compelling performance. Guttierez and Korchak made a perfect young couple, fresh, sweet, confused by their innocence. He sang pledging his fidelity…shyly…eagerly…ardently...

The opera opens with the young betrothed couple on the eve of their wedding. Elvino sings that he is jealous of the stranger in their midst, Count Rodolfo…”I am jealous of the sun that looks on you….” Amina responds, lovingly: “I love the sun because I share it with YOU! more doubts.”

Amina, sleepwalking through the tiny village, wanders into the inn and the Count’s room and, believing she is with Elvino, snuggles up against him. The jealous inn-keeper Lisa, tells Elvino that Amina has been in the Count’s room, alone, in the dead of night. Amina has no recollection of what happened: “What have I done…. “ she cries. Anguished at her supposed infidelity Elvino calls off the wedding, ripping the engagement ring off her finger. Amina, is disconsolate. Despairing, heartbreakingly, she sings. (And to the stage director, Ira Siff, respect! He elicited a memorable performance. His directorial stints have included working with James Levine on Così Fan Tutte at Tanglewood last year and an award winning production of The Mikado in Boston. He returns to Tanglewood this summer to direct the Opera Scenes Program.)

The other singers, Elisabeth Caballero (Lisa), Laura Vlasak Nolen (Teresa), Brian Kontes (Alessio) and Luke Grooms (A Notary) were beyond ‘musical’… their voices and acting talents added to the proceedings. Only Ferruccio Furlanetto, (Count Rodolfo) sang much of his middle covered and was rather stolid.

The one hundred voice NY Choral Society was splendid and the orchestra under Maestro Queler’s baton ably underpinned the superb singers.

The house was roused to thunderous applause. A great time was had by all.
More about Italian opera? To read about Levine's intense performance of Verdi's Don Carlo at Tanglewood, click here.
Another great production by Ira Siff? Click here to read about Mozart's Così Fan Tutte at Tanglewood

Eve Queler, Music Director of the Opera Orchestra of New York
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