At 2pm Pacific Time on 31 December 2020, Metropolitan Opera presented its New Year's Eve Gala Concert from the neo-Baroque Parktheater im Kurhaus Göggingen, located in Augsburg, Germany. The Vienna Morphing Quintet and Wiener Staatsoper coach and pianist Cecile Restier accompanied sopranos Angel Blue and Pretty Yende as well as tenors Javier Camarena and Matthew Polenzani.
Wearing a brown suit and a bright red bow tie, Camarena opened the program with 'Ah! Mes amis' (Oh! My friends) and 'Pour mon âme' (For my soul), the cavatina and the amazing cabaletta with nine high Cs from Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment. Dressed in red lace, Pretty Yende countered his glorious coloratura with plenty of her own in ('Chacun le sait') (Someone knows it) from the same Donizetti work, after which they sang the duet 'Quoi! Vous m'aimez?' (What? You love me?) from this amusing opera. Pianist Restier accompanied the arias while the Quintet played the duet.
After these Donizetti scenes, Matthew Polenzani, also wearing a brown suit and red tie, and Angel Blue, dressed in blue and purple, appeared with a scene from the first act of Giacomo Puccini's La bohème that brought back memories of wonderful staged performances. Rodolfo remarks that his neighbor's tiny hand is frozen in 'Che gelida manina' and with sparkling glances, she tells him her name in 'Sì, mi chiamano Mimì'. He then replies with 'O soave fanciulla' (Oh, sweet young girl) and together they sing exquisite high notes as they leave the stage for dinner at the Café Momus. Although there were only five members of the string group, they gave the impression of an orchestra since they played most of the selection's sonorities.
'Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso' (I drink to your fresh smile) from Puccini's La Rondine brought back memories of Los Angeles Opera some years ago when Angel Blue, then in their young artist program, appeared in that work. Even then, she was so fascinating that I could not wait to find out more about her. Looking toward a future role, Angel Blue sang 'D'amor sull'ali rosee' (Love on rosy wings) from Verdi's Il Trovatore. I hope to see her interpret Leonora in Il Trovatore (The Troubador) onstage as soon as the pandemic allows. She not only has the stamina and the high notes for it, she also has gorgeous chest tones and a full-blooded trill.
Polenzani, who has been singing much longer than the other three artists, gave a memorable rendition of Verdi's indefatigable 'La donna è mobile' (Women are fickle) from Rigoletto.
Camarena, from whom high notes drop as easily as dew on a spring morn, sang 'Sì, ritrovarla io giuro' (Yes, I will find her again I swear) from Rossini's bravura legend, La Cenerentola (Cinderella).
Also singing Rossini's music, Yende presented a delightfully ornamented rendition of 'Una voce poco fa' from The Barber of Seville. She was sweet, tractable and demure until someone tried to restrict her freedom, then ... watch out! Remaining in a thoroughly playful mood, Pretty Yende and Javier Camarena returned with 'Son geloso del zefiro errante' (I'm jealous of the wandering zephyr), a charming duet from Bellini's La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker). Yende is an enchanting coquette who sings with crisp, clear coloratura.
Because it was New Year's Eve, Angel Blue and Matthew Polenzani sang the waltz, 'Lippen schweigen' (Silent Lips) from Lehár's The Merry Widow with elan and a good bit of old fashioned schmaltz. Then all four artists turned to traditional Italian songs. Yende and Camarena performed Leoncavallo's 'Mattinata' (Morning Song), Blue and Polenzani sang De Curtis' 'Torna a Surriento' (Return to Sorrento), and the two couples sang di Capua's ''O sole mio' (My sun). Following a fun-loving tradition begun by Franco Corelli and Birgit Nilsson, Yende, Camarena, Blue and Polenzani tried to out do each other with bravura decorations and interpolated high notes.
With wine glasses in hand our quartet added 'Libiamo, ne' lieti calici' (Drink from these happy glasses) from the first act of Verdi's La Traviata to their exultant finale and topped their performance off with the traditional Scottish 'Auld Lang Syne'.
Copyright © 2 January 2021