Opera review

Review: Washington Concert Opera's 'Adriana Lecouvreur' at Lisner Auditorium

IN SYNC: James Valenti and Mary Elizabeth Williams as Maurizio and Adriana.
IN SYNC: James Valenti and Mary Elizabeth Williams as Maurizio and Adriana. (Don Lassell)
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By Joe Banno
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams and mezzo Elizabeth Bishop made a splendid pair of rivals in Washington Concert Opera's performance of Francesco Cilea's 1902 potboiler "Adriana Lecouvreur" at Lisner Auditorium on Sunday. Williams, as the grand, 18th-century actress of the title, and Bishop, as the Principessa di Bouillon -- Adriana's competition for the affections of the Saxon count, Maurizio -- both possess the richness and vibrancy of voice to really sell the blood-and-guts verismo style of Cilea's writing. Williams also produced a creamy tone on her softly sung phrases, some ravishingly floated high notes and an arresting chest voice that paid dividends in the spoken excerpts of classical plays that Adriana declaims at several points in the opera.

The performance was generally cast from strength in the other principal and supporting roles as well, not least the tenor role of Maurizio, which James Valenti delivered with virile, beautifully balanced tone and a sweetly ringing upper register. If his handsome voice felt a size too small in carrying power next to Williams's singing, it did evince the right Mediterranean passion. Veteran baritone Donnie Ray Albert was also a welcome presence as the lovelorn stage manager, Michonnet, with his voice a tad thinner of tone these days, but still rock-solid and expressive.

Cilea's alternately swooning, scintillating and thundering score does much to ennoble the overwrought claptrap of the opera's libretto. Conductor Antony Walker did it full justice, drawing playing of power and refinement from his pickup orchestra.

Banno is a freelance writer.

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