On Wednesday night, it was time to celebrate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. A gala event to raise money in support of the museum’s Shenson Chamber Music Concert series honored Elizabeth Futral with an award for excellence in the performing arts. The distinguished American soprano offered a brief selection of opera arias, plus a single song.
Opera is certainly the sort of music Futral is best known for in these parts, most recently in Jonathan Miller’s oft-recycled staging of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” at Washington National Opera, and she excelled in all of these arias, displaying vocal power and agility, as well as a refined and dramatic stage presence. The high point was a daring rendition of “Dis-moi que je suis belle” from Massenet’s “Thaïs,” in which Futral held attention firmly over long stretches of static, recitative melody, hitting her most powerful top note toward the end. The opening fireworks, “Da tempeste il legno infranto” from Handel’s “Giulio Cesare,” were flashy if not that fast, a tentativeness made up for by spectacular embellishments on the repeat.
Futral gave a nice tribute to composer Lori Laitman, whose new opera on “The Scarlet Letter” was to have featured Futral as Hester Prynne until the presenter, Opera Colorado, had to cut back its programming for financial reasons. Laitman’s song “Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me” and the character Susanna’s “Deh vieni,” from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” were both tender, if slightly lackluster. A brilliant finale, Violetta’s Act I scena from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” complete with a rafter-shaking high E-flat at the end, sent an appropriate message for the event, that it is best to “go madly from joy to joy” — and spend one’s money on the arts — while one can.
Downey is a freelance writer.