There has been a belcanto resurgence at the Metropolitan Opera over the last few years with such rarities as "Le Comte Ory," "Anna Bolena" and "Maria Stuarda" making their long awaited Met debuts despite being around for hundreds of years.

This season, Rossini's "La Donna Del Lago" followed in the footsteps of those operas with superstars Joyce DiDonato and Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez leading the cast.

Unlike such Rossini favorites as "La Cenerentola" and "The Barber of Seville," "Donna" is not a comic gem but a more subdued, even tamer, opera seria. Elena is the daughter of Duglas, a revolutionary fighting a war against the King of Scotland Giacomo. Duglas has promised Elena to the warrior Rodrigo without knowing that his daughter is in fact in love with a soldier named Malcolm. Meanwhile, Giacomo, disguised as Uberto, meets Elena by the lake and falls in love with her. The competition for Elena's love in many ways encapsulates the political tension at the core of the opera's narrative.

The work moves at a rather languid tempo with the traditional standbys of this genre of opera. Double aria scenes are in even greater abundance with a few strong ensembles sprinkled in between to add variety.

The production by Paul Curran strips the work bare to its minimal essentials. It is minimalism taken to an extreme in some cases, with the stage often left empty for long stretches, only to be filled with cast members, who in keeping with the production's inherent minimalism, stand and sing for lengthy portions. In keeping with Rossini's own musical structure of using ensembles to break the cyclical nature of aria scenes, Curran's production uses a few staging flourishes here and there to add variety. At one point, the downstage aria opens up and up comes the home of Elena, filled with decorations; it is arguably the most elaborate set in the entire production. At the start of the second act, the once bare stage has sticks with decapitated heads on top of them. In the opera's final scene, the entire stage turns red and gold to emphasize the castle of Giacomo.

What the minimalism does is get out of the singers' way and allow them to flourish. And there is absolutely no doubt that they do.

As Elena, DiDonato is vulnerable and gentle. Her delivery of the opening and closing arias brought some unique contrasts that emphasized the character's evolution from a state of loneliness and longing to one of utter joy. In the latter, "Tanti affetti," her voice soared with ecstatic coloratura runs that pushed her voice to its aural extreme. This contrasted greatly with the gentler and elastic phrasing of Elena's opening solo. Of course, DiDonato's heroine was not simply a damsel in distress throughout and showed a ferociousness in her singing during the opera's climactic trio in act 2.

As Giacomo, Juan Diego Florez brought his trademark polish in his singing. His coloratura runs were precise and exact in every possible moment and his high notes, which have always been a cause for excitement, were at their very best throughout the night. But the true gem of the night from the singer was during the start of the second act when his singing in the aria "Oh fiamma soave," was filled with tenderness and pain. He stretched every note, emphasizing his endless desire to see his beloved Elena. Giacomo is constantly called the villain of the piece by the other characters, but no one listening to this singing could possible agree with that statement.

As Malcom, mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcelona was a natural scene-stealer. From a physical standpoint, this was the performance that had a greater challenge than the others. Made up and dressed like a man, Barcelona's appearance was as convincing as it gets, with every gesture and walk denoting a potent male warrior. From the opening notes of her "Elena! oh tu, che chiamo!," with a glorious crescendo on the word "Elena" through the end of his " Ah! si pera: ormai la morte!," with its bravura runs, Barcelona was poised and fearless. There could be no doubt that despite being the least recognized of the warriors in the opera, Malcolm was just as heroic as his two combatants for Elena's love.

As Rodrigo, John Osbourne delivered a feast of high notes in his opening cavatina. There was an intense wildness in his delivery at these musical climaxes that emphasized Rodrigo's more violent nature. But he also showcased a softer side in the aria "Ma dov'è colei," which had yearning equaling the desire of his rivals.

Oren Gradus had a rugged firmness in his singing as Duglas while the Met chorus was a constant force in the man moments it was called upon.

Michele Mariotti relished every musical moment and was particularly effective in highlighting the diverse musical color palette. The winds highlight the work's gentle qualities and they resonated consistently throughout the evening. The horns also play a crucial role in portraying the warring sides and the Met's brass section sounded as a good as it ever has throughout the night. The tempi were agile but Mariotti consistently deferred to his singers to give them freedom in their arias.

Rossini's "Donna del Lago" is not a particularly gripping opera from a dramatic standpoint, but there can be no doubt that the singing in the Metropolitan Opera's current production is as masterful as it comes.