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Performances

Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello [Photo courtesy of Warner Classics]
15 Sep 2014

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello [Photo courtesy of Warner Classics]

 

This performance was at the Balboa Theater, a reconditioned movie house with good acoustics. The auditorium was full and the applause greeting Carol Lazier, President of the Board of Directors, and Nicolas M. Reveles, Director of Education and Community Engagement, was almost as loud as the sounds that were heard last spring when the company almost disbanded.

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down as was the wish of former General Director Ian Campbell, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form. This performance was at the Balboa Theater, a reconditioned movie house with good acoustics. The auditorium was full and the applause greeting Carol Lazier, President of the Board of Directors, and Nicolas M. Reveles, Director of Education and Community Engagement, was almost as loud as the sounds that were heard last spring when the company almost disbanded. San Diego was willing to let everyone in the world know it needed its opera company. That’s why it got contributions from all over the globe.

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez had just released a new compact disc Love Duets and San Diego was the first stop on their tour of the United States. With collaborative pianist Danielle Orlando, Pérez entered in an exquisite scarlet-lined pink dress to sing lines from Act I of Verdi’s La traviata. Costello soon joined her as he might have had the scene been staged. His stage deportment has improved markedly since the last time I heard him and his “Un di felice” was as beautifully phrased as I have ever heard it.

She continued with songs by Reynaldo Hahn and he returned with Jake Heggie’s Friendly Persuasions, a group of songs that pay homage to Francis Poulenc. In one song Wanda Landowska worries about his giving her a concerto to learn the last minute. In another Pierre Bernac describes Christmas in 1936. Poulenc remembers Raymonde Linossier saying that his notes “like iron filings are pushed and pulled by the magnetic force” of Paul Eluard’s words. Costello’s French diction was laudable and the colors of his tones conveyed at least as much meaning as the words. These are wonderful songs and I hope more singers will soon perform them.

Pérez then sang a charming excerpt from Massenet’s Manon and her voice blossomed with silvered tones. Costello reminded this audience of the performances of Faust they performed together with “Salut demeure chaste et pure” which he ended with an exquisite, well controlled pianissimo. They brought the recital to intermission with an amusing duet from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

After the interval the couple and their accompanist returned to perform the well-known duet from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, for which Pérez’s Suzel wore some very form fitting polka dots. She followed the duet with seven de Falla songs: El Paño Moruno speaks of stained cloth as a metaphor for a young girl of loose morals. In the Seguidilla Murciana Perez speaks of male inconstancy while in her other songs the colors of her voice and the textures of her music told of universal human conditions that are as true today as they were in the composer’s time.

Costello’s solo contributions were a combination of well known and lesser-known songs by Paolo Tosti. Most of the audience knew his Ideale, but his Non t’amo piu and Goodbye were new to many. The latter was actually written in English. Perez and Costello brought the recital to a close with Bernstein’s One Hand, One Heart, and its close was greeted with thunderous applause for them and for Orlando, their most capable accompanist, Their possessive audience would not let them go without three encores: Youmans’ Without a Song, Obradors’ Del cabello más sutil, and Rogers’ If I Loved You.

Maria Nockin

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