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René Barbera [Photo by Kristin Hoebermann courtesy of Askonas Holt]
24 Sep 2015

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: René Barbera [Photo by Kristin Hoebermann courtesy of Askonas Holt]


The Balboa Theater, a refurbished 1924 cinema with a seating capacity of 1600, was filled with people representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities. It seemed that California opera fans already knew the tenor from his appearances in La Cenerentola in San Francisco, The Barber of Seville in Los Angeles and San Diego Opera’s Fiftieth Anniversary Concert. Cheryl Cellon Lindquist of Opera San Antonio was Barbera’s most able accompanist.

Casually dressed for the occasion, Barbera opened his program with the aria “Vieni fra queste braccia” (Come to these arms) from Gioachino Rossini’s La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie), an opera he had sung at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy, the previous month. The piece demonstrated his phenomenal ability to sing florid passages that included huge intervals and treacherous high notes. He followed it with four tenderly romantic songs by Vincenzo Bellini.

From Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) he sang “Je crois entendre encore” (“I think I hear her voice again”) with warm tones and total ease of delivery. Switching to Spanish, he sang of various kinds of love and its joys before returning to Donizetti’s French opera, La Fille du Régiment, for “Ah mes amis,” the famous aria with nine high Cs. Barbera showed impressive vocal control throughout his entire range and never seemed to tire singing to this grateful and responsive audience.

After a short intermission Barbera returned with a dramatic interpretation of Leandro’s aria No puedeserfrom Pablo Sorozábal’s 1936 zarzuela La tabernera del puerto. Alberto Ginastera’s Cinco Canzones Populares Argentinas (Five Popular Argentine Songs) combine the colors of Latin folk rhythms with twentieth century harmonies. While Lindquist played with the utmost virtuosity, Barbera conveyed a great deal of emotional density with his understated vocal line. The song Zamba says “If you have stolen my heart, you must give me yours.” Barbera stole all our hearts with these songs and the affecting works that followed.

A long time ago a tenor named Jan Peerce was known for his impressive technique. Peerce did not have the biggest voice at the Metropolitan Opera, but when he sang, one could hear him in the farthest reaches of the house’s back offices. I think Barbera’s voice is equally well focused. The Texas tenor is an intensely musical singer and a true stage creature with the ability to get the meat of a story across the footlights. He provided the San Diego audience with a most enjoyable evening of aria and song. Hopefully, it won’t be long before he again returns to regale Californians with more of his fine art.

Maria Nockin


Gioachino Rossini, La gazza ladra, “Vieni fra queste braccia”; La danza.

Vincenzo Bellini: Dolente immagine di Fille mia, Malinconia, Ninfa gentile, Ma rendi pur contento, Vaga luna, che inargenti.

Georges Bizet: Les pêcheurs de perles “Je crois entendre encore”.

Fernando Obradors: Con amores la mi madre, Del cabello más sutil, Al amor.

Gaetano Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment “Ah mes amis”; L’elisir d’amore, “Una furtiva lagrima”.

Pablo Sorozábal: No Puede Ser.

Alberto Ginastera: Cinco Canzones Populares Argentinas.

Paolo Tosti: Ideale, Malia, Non t’amo piu, L’alba sepàra dalla luce l’ombra.

Soutullo and Vert: Bella Enamorada.

Augustin Lara: Granada.

Encore: Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto: “La donna è mobile”.

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