Alessandra Marc, Thrilling in 'Russian Music'

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Any chance to hear soprano Alessandra Marc should be seized upon. Is there another singer of such authentically Wagnerian amplitude who can match Marc in tonal beauty? She sang the radiant second movement of Rachmaninoff's dazzlingly scored, Poe-based choral masterpiece "The Bells," in the Choral Arts Society's "Evening of Russian Music" at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday, returning after intermission to perform a pair of dark-hued Tchaikovsky arias. In all these pieces, the enveloping opulence of her sound and those rafter-ringing high notes proved as tingle-inducing as ever.

Joining Marc on the program were tenor Paul Austin Kelly (whose focused timbre and interpretive restraint were welcome in Lenski's aria from Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," some gritty top notes aside), bass Robert Pomakov (at 25 years of age already commanding in the Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov"), and mezzo Laura Zuiderveen (rich-voiced and moving in "The Field of the Dead," from Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky").

The pickup orchestra -- under conductor Norman Scribner for "The Bells" and Anthony Walker for the remainder of the evening -- did a notably fine job, given the daunting array of meaty Russian scores on the program. But the ultimate stars were the men and women of the chorus, whose thrilling volume, extroverted phrasing and punchy accents were just what this music requires. Their unfailingly handsome tone and blend didn't hurt either.

-- Joe Banno

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