Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello
Photo: Ken Howard/San Diego Opera 2010
What better way to compensate for the sorrows of a weekend with one less hour of sleep than to offer up the joy in the most romantic of French Operas? At least that seems to be the strategy for San Diego Opera, which kicked off four performances of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette
on Saturday night. It’s a pretty good evening and likely the highlight of their 2010 season if for no other reason than for the two remarkable leads, Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez. The label of “rising young star” gets thrown around a lot, but these two singers, who are married in real life, are the real deal. Pérez is scheduled to sing Amelia opposite Placido Domingo’s Simon Boccanegra
at La Scala later this spring. (And here’s wishing him a speedy recovery from his recent surgery.) Costello has recently stepped into a number of major roles at the Metropolitan Opera and will be going from the B-cast to the A-cast in a number of major European venues next season. Hearing the pair sing Gounod’s version of the ill-fated lovers makes it clear why they are on their way up. Costello is both agile and athletic and assails high notes with ease. He had a tendency to milk sustained notes for more than they were worth on almost every occasion presented to him, but this indulgence aside, he was pretty exciting. Pérez can also fill the house with ease and manages the flights of notes in her part skillfully. She had a tendency to turn harsh at the very top of her range, but the screaming there settled down after a little warming up. In addition to the sound, the young couple looked the part of their characters, which is always nice when you can get it in the opera house.
Sadly, not much of the rest of the show is quite up to their par. In fact, even with their wonderful vocalism, many of the big climactic scenes fell short due to a number of issues including Cynthia Stokes’ pedestrian direction. The rather drab single set creates the specified balconies and interiors, but little more. The choreography was labored and cramped, although the cast had clearly spent some time on the fight sequences. The orchestra was led by Karen Keltner in a performance that was sufficient, although not always as lyrical or engaged with what was going on onstage. Things could become a little too plodding at times, and then rushed at others. There is a fine line between bounce and wobble if you know what I mean. The chorus sounded much stronger than in the recent production of Nabucco
. But the negatives don't blot out what's good in the show. There are three more performances in the next two weeks. So, if you want to see tomorrow’s stars today, it’s worth checking this Romeo
Labels: San Diego Opera 10