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Performances

21 Sep 2016

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Piotr Beczala [Photo by Anja Frers/DG]

 

Their sold-out presentation was the first performance of this new Shiley Detour Series, which will continue in November with the David T. Little’s new opera Soldier Songs and will return in March with Peter Brook’s The Tragedy of Carmen.

Beczala sang a few songs along with numerous lyric and dramatic arias, pouring forth a feast in Italian, French, German, and Czech for the city’s vocal music connoisseurs. He began with Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s simple serenade, Mattinata, which opened the door to his smooth, lyrical rendition of “Dei miei bollenti spiriti,” from Verdi’s La traviata, and a more dramatic and exciting presentation of “Di’ tu sei fedele” from the same composer’s Un ballo in maschera.

Beczala and Katz followed the Italian selections with Antonin Dvořák’s bittersweet Gypsy Songs and the Prince’s Aria from the same composer’s Rusalka. Although the Czech song texts may not be easily deciphered, the tunes are as familiar as cookies from grandma. Both singing and accompaniment were insightful, sometimes joyous and at other times plaintive. In the Rusalka aria, the Prince has fallen in love with a spirit and even thought he knows his enchanting vision is not real, he begs it not to end. Beczala and Katz continued with a rousing version of Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lachelns and a more introverted interpretation of Richard Strauss’s Cäcilie. I wondered why he did not end the first half of the program with the better-known operetta aria.

The Balboa Theater is not large and San Diego music lovers filled every conceivable seat. Perhaps next time the opera presents an equally important concert, it can be held in a larger hall. This recital was one of the best to be heard in many years. For the second half of the program, Beczala and Katz offered magnificent performances of three French arias: “Pourquoi me reveiller” from Jules Massenet’s Werther,“Ah leve-toi Soleil” from Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and The Flower Song from Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Again, Beczala mixed lighter and heavier arias, showing that he could handle both with unusual ease. Few tenors can sing the Flower Song’s high note pianissimo but Beczala sang it the way Bizet wrote it. From this audience of long time operagoers, the applause was almost deafening.

The last group was again Italian, and included the artist’s enchanting delivery “Quando le sere al placido” from Verdi’s Luisa Miller and their captivating depiction of tenor Cavaradossi’s arias from Puccini’s Tosca. They exuded charm in the character’s joyous ode to feminine beauty, “Recondita Armonia” and underscored the tragedy of his realization that he will never again see the stars in the sky in “E lucevan le stelle.” Although some handkerchiefs were evident at the end of this concert, they were soon back in their pockets as the appreciative audience called the artist back and stood to show its admiration for the smiling artists.

Over the last few years, we have not heard Martin Katz in recital very often. He teaches, he conducts, and he edits, but he still has the agility and the artistry to make his mark as a top-level recital collaborator. Beczala and Katz continued with three encores: Italian-born American Salvatore Cardillo’s Core ‘ngrato (Ungrateful Heart), Polish composer Miczyslaw Karlowicz’s Pamietam ciche, jasne, zlote dine (I Remember Quiet, Clear Golden Days), and operetta composer Robert Stolz’s unforgettable “Ob blond ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau'n” from the movie of the same name. That last song with its powerful final high note sent every lady in the theater out with the thought that the tenor appreciated individual beauty. It was a wonderful way to end this exquisite recital. Hopefully Beczala will again appear in Southern California the next time he tours the United States.

Maria Nockin

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