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BWW Review: The Met's SummerStage Recital Has a Date with an 'Angel'

Soprano Angel Blue, with Dan Saunders at the piano.
Photo: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera

The weather, the stars and "the stars" aligned the other night in Central Park, when the Metropolitan Opera performed its annual recital at SummerStage. Usually home to more pop culture performers, it turned out to be the perfect venue for introductions to some unfamiliar yet striking operatic newcomers, including soprano Angel Blue, tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Alexey Lavrov.

While many mourn the loss of the fully staged operas that the Met once offered in New York parks during its off season, in some ways this kind of recital does a better job of showing off the range of the performers. In particular, Blue had a chance to offer a variety of Puccini arias--along with Bizet, Gounod, Mozart, Lehar and Bernstein--that displayed what we might expect from her once she makes a "real" debut (in the opera house, that is).

I say "might," since the performance was amplified, though I had the feeling that she didn't need any help in this department. While her large, velvety, flexible voice was very fine in Micaela's aria "Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante," it was in "Donde lieta usei" from LA BOHEME and, particularly, a thoughtful, caressing version of TOSCA's "Vissi d'arte" that made me want to hear more from her. (I also wondered about her Musetta, which she has sung in London.) She topped off the evening with an utterly beguiling "Carceleras" from the Spanish zarzuela, LAS HIJAS DEL ZEBEDEO by Ruperto Chapí.

Ten Ben Bliss. Photo: Jonathan Tichler/
Metropolitan Opera

The other two performers have already made their house debuts at the Met. I hate to pigeonhole a singer, but Bliss was, well, most blissful in Mozart. He was Belmonte earlier this season in Mozart's DIE ENTFUHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL (ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO) and while I heard a different cast, it was easy to see that it's a role that seemed to fit him well from his sweet-voiced, charming presence in "O wie angstlich" from that opera. He brought similar qualities to another Mozart aria, "Un'aura amorosa" from COSI FAN TUTTE and to his beautiful duet with Blue of "Tonight" from WEST SIDE STORY. His "Magische tone" from Goldmark's DIE KÖNIGIN VON SABA was gorgeous and haunting.

After hearing Lavrov as Malatesta in DON PASQUALE this season, it was pleasurable to hear him sing in his native Russian, with the cavatina, "Vyes' tabor spit" from Rachmaninoff's ALEKO. (He has sung the title role in a production with Opera Carolina.) It's an aria that's popular with baritones at the Met audition concerts and it's was easy to understand its appeal, in turns dramatic and exciting, calling upon all his resources. Lavrov was also a good partner for Blue in a charming version of "The Merry Widow Waltz" by Lehar and for Bliss in a scene from LA BOHEME, "In un coupe?...Oh Mimi tu piu non torni." He encored with the delightful and irresistible "Parlami d'amore, Mariù" by Cesare Andrea Bixio, a song best known from the "Three Tenors" concerts.

Pianist Dan Saunders was a gracious, very capable accompanist in the outing--certainly a challenge when dealing with less experienced singers who didn't have him in their sight-lines. Mary Jo Heath, the radio host for the Met's Saturday afternoon broadcasts, was emcee for the concert.

The concert was repeated two nights later, at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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From This Author Richard Sasanow

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