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Park Avenue Armory Portraits
04 Feb 2018

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Lisette Oropesa [Portrait courtesy of Park Avenue Armory Portraits]

 

It’s text by Antonio Paso and Enrique García Álvarez searches for acceptance within the native country. Since Tucson is located near the Mexican border, the audience understood the emotions portrayed in this song despite the fact that it was written early in the last century.

Oropesa is a lyric soprano with a sizeable voice and the technique of a coloratura. It’s a powerful combination that allows her to sing fiendishly difficult roles like Konstanze in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio with the utmost authority. A perfectionist when it comes to the technical aspects of coloratura singing, Oropesa also saw to it that no one in the audience could fail to understand her songs. In the program, she printed not only the words to each selection in the original language, but their translation as well. She also left the lighting high enough for any necessary reading while she was singing.

Oropesa and Borowitz then performed three Mozart lieder: “As Luise Burned the Letters of Her Untrue Lover,” K 520; “Evening Feeling,” K 523; and “Be Thou my Consolation,” K391. She made everyone in the audience feel Luise’s pain as she remembered the contents of the letters she burned. Oropesa touched many emotions when she sang about the words of love having been written to another young girl as well as Luise. Oropesa and Borowitz then reminded the audience of the beauty of night. It was especially appropriate on this late January evening as we knew that outside we would be greeted by the second full moon of the month, a large, reddish-colored globe that would later follow us north to Phoenix. Singer and pianist painted a cool aural picture of night and its respite from the heat of a desert day. They finished the Mozart group with a paen to living the solitary life, by choice or otherwise. Oropesa has a seamless technique. Her tones were bathed in pastel colors as they evoked the emotions of her words.

Leonard Bernstein’s 1949 “Two Love Songs” tell of a love that is stronger than life and can weld two souls together so that they sing a single melody. Oropesa’s butter cream tones were completely unified with Borowitz’s shimmering melodic strains. She finished the first half of the recital with an exquisite rendition of the “Vocalise” that Camille Saint-Saens wrote on a visit to Egypt in 1901. It is a wonderful text-free song that allows the coloratura to use some of her most intricate and difficult maneuvers. For Oropesa, it was a pièce de résistance.

After the intermission, Oropesa returned with “Four Songs” that Samuel Barber wrote between 1937 and 1940. In the first song, which has a text by British Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, a young woman looks for a peaceful life of contemplation in the convent. Would she find it in this melodic ambience? “The Secrets of the Old” seemed very much to the point because Oropesa sang to an audience that included many of the university’s voice teachers. Most of them had been performers who retired to teach in the warm climate of Southern Arizona. “Sure on this Shining Night” has become one of Barbers popular works. Oropesa and Borowitz put their own shine on its cachet before finishing the group with the sweet and chromatic "Nocturne."

Following the Barber, Oropesa and Borowitz performed two songs by Georges Bizet from his Op. 21, “Twenty Melodies.” He wrote them between 1838 and the year of the Carmen premiere, 1875. In “Chant d’amour,” the lady entreats her lover to enjoy the beauty of summer out of doors. The second, “The Arabian Hostess’s Farewell,” spoke of unrequited love and the sorrow of parting from someone who will never return. Oropesa and Borowitz rendered each song with a full quotient of emotion in a seemingly effortless manner.

Because it is the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, almost every opera company seems to be presenting his Candide. Not to be outdone by the sopranos singing the show’s best known aria, “Glitter and be Gay,” Oropesa sang it wearing at least ten sets of Mardi Gras beads which she threw to the audience at the song’s finale. It was a fine ending to a lovely concert, but their public would not let these artists go without an encore. From Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Oropesa sang “Prendi, per me sei libero” to a smiling crowd that exited the hall humming the lovely melodies they had heard from these wonderful artists.

Maria Nockin


Program:

LUNA: El Niño Judio, “De España Vengo.”
MOZART: “Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte;” “Abendempfindung;” “Sei du mein Trost. “
BERNSTEIN: Two Love Songs: “Extinguish My Eyes;” “When My Soul Touches Yours.”
SAINT-SAENS: Vocalise “Le Rossignol et la Rose.”
Intermission
BARBER: Four Songs “A Nun Takes the Veil;” “The Secrets of the Old;” “Sure on This Shining Night;” “Nocturne.”
BIZET: From Twenty Mélodies “Chant d’Amour;” “Adieu de l’hôtesse Arabe.”
BERNSTEIN: Candide “Glitter and Be Gay.”

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