Metropolitan Opera 2015-16 Review: Maria Agresta Is An Undeniable Force in Title Role of 'La Boheme'
Puccini's "La Boheme" is undoubtedly the most popular work and most performed opera at the Metropolitan Opera house, with 1290 performances. It's hard not see why, as it has some of the most melodic musical numbers and lush orchestrations by Puccini.
At the Met, Franco Zeffirelli's realistic sets bring nuance and grandeur to the work and it is remains an audience favorite. This was definitely seen at the beginning of both acts two and three as the audience applauded when the curtain opened showing the Parisian Latin Quarter and snowy landscapes. Being performed almost every year this is the type of opera that can become routine and lack any type of freshness. However, the Met has lined up an exceptional cast headlined by its two leading ladies, Maria Agresta and Ailyn Perez.
In the title role of Mimi, Maria Agresta showed why she is swiftly becoming one of the most sought-after sopranos in the world. In her debut season, Agresta showed off a compellingly voice that easily cut through Puccini's massive orchestration. Her voice easily went from full throated to beautifully light pianissimi. This was definitely evident in her opening aria "Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi." Agresta sang with a beautifully legato, connected starting the aria lightly. However, as she continued throughout, it was evident that Agresta was being coquettish emphasizing certain text. And this youthful character was also seen in the second act as she twirled into her Rodoflo's arms and interacted with Musetta and the rest of the gang.
But when it was time for the dramatic, Agresta showed the most strength. In her duet with Marcello in the third act Agresta exuded weakness but at the same time suffering. The sweetness in the voice that was heard in the first act transformed into a more full-throated sound. In her subsequent aria "Donde Lieta Usci," Agresta sang with such delicacy and held onto final notes "Senza Rancor" with tenderness. It was if her character was trying to hold onto Rodolfo but knew it was too late.
In the role of Musetta, Ailyn Perez, who recently won the Beverely Sills Award, returned to the Met in one of the most charismatic and show-stopping Musetta's in recent Met seasons. From the moment she entered the Met stage her Musetta bristled with lots of energy. She flirted with the towns people, with the soldiers and at the same time made sure to put the pressure on Alcindoro, destroying plates and throwing menus. In her famous waltz "Quando Me'n vo'," Perez relished the moment as she sat in between soldiers, seducing each one. Her lush soprano voice caressed each phrase making it evident that she was easily having fun with the role. There was a sensual feel to her rubati throughout the aria and the gentle approach to some of the phrases.
In the third act, Perez showed some more comedic timing as she danced and tripped her Marcello. But this was all combined with vocal fireworks as her soprano soared in the climax to the famed quartet "Dunque Propio e finito." In the final act, Perez dispatched the monologue "Madonna Benedetta," with subtle intensity almost as if she was speaking. This was a heartwarming moment that showed another side to Musetta. Perez and her Macrello, Levente Molnar, added a sense of urgency as they began making a remedy for the sick Mimi. This simple action helped flesh out her character and added a sense of kindness and commitment often missing in other portrayals.
In the role of Rodolfo Bryan Hymel showed off his gleaming high notes throughout, especially in "Che Gelida Manina." His bright timbre continues to grow in size and his dramatic inclinations were definitely seen, particularly in his emotionally gripping third act "Mimi e tanto malata!" He was also compelling in the final act, singing with tenderness during the duet "Sono andati."
In the role of Marcello, Levente Molnar sang with vigor and heft. He also displayed a physicality not often seen in the role. He was playful, particularly in his interaction with Musetta. This was particularly seen in the act three quartet as he chased after her in jealousy. Then in Act Four during the duet "O Mimi tu piu no torni," he brought a lush tone that boomed throughout the theater.
In role of Colline Roberto, Tagliavani showed a promising bass in his aria "Vecchia Zimarra" as he sang with such sensitivity. Alessio Arduini brought some comic timing to his Schaunard as he danced, twirled around the stage. Paul Plishka continued to bring charisma to the roles of Alcindoro and Benoit.
In the pit, Dan Ettinger sometimes slowed the tempi a bit much, causing some of the scenes to feel longer than usual. However, in the most intense moments he brought out penetrating colors in the orchestra that really showed the emotional force of Puccini's melancholic score.
With the season coming to a close, Puccini's "La Boheme" is surely an opera to be enjoyed particularly with the revelatory performance by Maria Agresta and its beautiful production.
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