The Washington Post

La Sonnambula: bel canto weekend

So the Washington Concert Opera saw the Washington National Opera’s “Anna Bolena,” and raised them by a better all-around cast with ”La Sonnambula” on Sunday afternoon. “Anna Bolena” wasn’t bad, but ”Sonnambula” was better, and it’s a shame that you can’t have both running simultaneously through October to give audiences here a real taste of bel canto style.

The comparison between Eglise Gutierrez and Sondra Radvanovsky demonstrates that bel canto style leaves room for a huge range of voices: they bridged the spectrum from soft and floating (Gutierrez) to clarion (Radvanovsky). Gutierriez is the better bel canto stylist, although I’m sure some audience members won’t forgive her the few notes she missed on Sunday (they weren’t sharp or flat or cracked; they just didn’t come out). But she excelled at all the ornament, piling on flounces and high pianissimos like mounds of frosting, where Radvanovsky was all about dramatic line (more appropriate to her character).

Very few of you reading this are likely to have attended both shows. But I’m always curious to hear opinions about bel canto singing: who do you think does it well, and what is it that you look for, or rather listen for, in a voice?

Above: Eglise Gutierrez, some years ago, singing the final number from “La Sonnambula.”

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.

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