To get an idea of Juan Carlos Morales Ferrer, imagine a bass-baritone Pavarotti with the power of a jumbo jet taking off. Accompanied by compatriot Madalit Lamazares on piano, the bearded Venezuelan shook and entranced the scattered spectators last night at the OAS Hall of the Americas. His recital was the first of a free series offered in connection with Inter-American Week, celebrating the 96th anniversary of the OAS and its predecessor organizations.
The first part of the concert concentrated on composers of Latin America and Venezuela in particular. Selections included the sweeping romanticism of Augusto Brandt's "Besos en mis suen os," echoed by Maria Grever's "Te quiero dijiste," a passionate Mexican ballad sprinkled with innocence and idealism. Morales Ferrer displayed much emotion, sometimes turning very red in the face as he sang. He never failed to bow gallantly to the pianist at the end of a piece.
Despite the composer's German last name and a Venezuelan nationality, Reynaldo Hahn's "Paysage" is in French. It enabled the baritone to channel his vocal muscles into a lyrical, impressionistic melody, displaying a range recalling Ivan Rebroff.
Opera was featured after the intermission, with "Il Prologo" from Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci," "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Gounod's "Faust" and Umberto Giordano's "Nemico della patria" from "Andrea Che'nier."
Although he was pitted against vast, echoing acoustics (which proved even harsher on Lamazares' instrument), the Venezuelan's smile and rotund dignity quickly warmed the audience. The reward: two encores and a standing ovation.