- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For its final program of the current season, the Washington Concert Opera offered a rare but welcome performance of Gioacchino Rossini’s almost-forgotten “Bianca e Falliero” Sunday evening at Lisner Auditorium.

WCO’s presentation of this “opera seria” — a rare dramatic excursion for a composer generally renowned for his comic confections — was not without mishaps. The company’s usually spot-on chorus was spotty, guilty of weak diction and muddy entrances. Lisner’s physical plant didn’t help matters, either.

About 10 minutes after the opening downbeat, the auditorium was plunged inexplicably into stygian darkness, bringing the music to an abrupt halt. Fortunately, power and lighting balance were restored after several anxious minutes. Unflappable maestro Antony Walker then rebooted the ensemble approximately where it had been interrupted.

It was announced before the performance that mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux was suffering from spring allergies but would still sing the trouser role of Falliero. Though she occasionally pulled back a bit during the ensembles, as if to conserve her voice, her solo excursions were dazzling.

Her vocal figures were brilliantly clear, always in tempo and daring in the boldness of their execution. All was underscored by her rich, burnished tone. Brava. Not to be outdone, soprano Anna Christy proved a worthy counterpart as the much-put-upon Bianca. Miss Christy was utterly charming in her portrayal of a naive but willful young girl; her liquid high notes and ornamentation were equally effective in solo and ensemble excursions.

The men were no less talented; they just had less to sing. In the larger of the male roles, that of Bianca’s evil “poor dad” Contareno, tenor Charles Workman revealed an uncommonly rich tenor voice notable for its emotional range. Mr. Workman was particularly impressive in his ability to sustain Rossini’s vocal line even when singing pianissimo.

In the smaller role as the wealthy Capiello, baritone Daniel Mobbs demonstrated great conviction in his solos and was remarkable for the bell-like clarity of his voice in the ensembles. Smaller roles were sung nicely as well, especially the role of Costanza, Bianca’s best friend, sung by mezzo Kyle Engler.

**1/2

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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