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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 1 September 1997

Rossini: La Donna del Lago - Bel Canto at Caramoor

by Philip Anson

The magical gardens and theatre of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, New York, is an ideal location for an undertaking such as the Bel Canto at Caramoor project, launched on July 19 with a concert performance of Rossini's La Donna del Lago. This new endeavour is the brainchild of Will Crutchfield whose similar Handel Project at the Manhattan School of Music has entertained (and frustrated) us for several years. Good intentions count for much in art, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this Rossini wasn't very appetizing. Best of the cast was mezzo Vivica Genaux in the pants part of Malcolm.Genaux has a dark, resonant Marilyn Horne sound and a naturally free vocal production that never fail to thrill. Her entrance aria "Mura felice" was certainly the high point of the opera. Soprano Marguerite Krull as Elena was uneven, to say the least. In Krull's duet "Ah dopo cotanto" with Genaux, Genaux repeatedly gave Krull the tempo and the pitch, resulting in some lovely moments that proved Krull is capable of good things when adequately partnered. The same cannot be said of tenor Bruce Fowler (Uberto) who has just about every technical fault a tenor can have. Baritone Nathaniel Watson certainly got into his role as the indignant Douglas but his wide vibrato and uninteresting timbre grew tiresome. The spectacle of Watson trading cracked high notes with tenor Matthew Chellis (Roderigo) was truly bathetic. The only praiseworthy voice other than Genaux's was that of soprano Nancy Rathbun in the tiny role of Albina. Crutchfield conducted too quickly and often too loudly, compounding the problems of singers and chorus. Much as I admire the idea of Bel Canto at Caramoor, another production like this one may do their project irreparable harm.

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