Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Night at Juilliard: Armide

Inspiration can be found in many places, but Torquato Tasso's poem "Gerusalemme Liberata" (published in 1581) seems to be a very popular source for operas.  Just one part from this epic poem was enough to inspire Haydn, Handel, Vivaldi and many others to write an opera about Armide.

The Armide operas have gone through a bit of a revival lately.  Last year Renée Fleming tackled the role of the sorceress in Rossini's Armide, and just this Saturday The Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in partnership with The Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at the Juilliard School presented Gluck's Armide.

The Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, as described in Saturday's program, "was created in 1980 by James Levine to identify and develop extraordinarily talented young artists in the realm of opera."

Many of the singers that enter the Lindemann Young Artist program do so after participating in the MONC Auditions, and last night was no difference.  There was Deanne Breiwick as Une Bergére who was a finalist in the 2011 Grand Finals, Wallis Giunta as Phénice who has won the Encouragement Award, Evan Hughes as Aronte who was a national Semi-Finalist in 2011 and Renée Tatum as La Haine who was a Regional Finalist in 2007.

Soo Yeon Kim, who played La Naïde, was actually a participant in this year's Eastern Region District Auditions.  She is currently in her fourth year as an undergraduate student at the Juillard School.  All of them have a bright future ahead of them, with roles at the MetOpera and all over the world.

It is a great opportunity for the singers, and they did a fantastic job.  There is no better compliment for them than a raving New York Times Review.  They are much better equiped at critiquing the voices, so check out the review here.

In a nutshell, the story deals with Armide, princess of Damascus and a sorceress, during the First Crusade.    She has defeated the Christian knights, but she can't stop thinking of Renaud, the one crusader who withstood her charm.  With the help of the spirits of the underworld she puts a spell on him that makes him fall in love with her.  That is where I started to get a little lost, but to me the story was not important at all in a production like this.

I usually don't go see an opera in concert setting.  I prefer the added bonus of spectacle and show, but I was pleasantly surprised by this performance.  I had a very good seat about five rows from the stage, which meant I could observe the singers' faces and movements as they were singing.  The lack of scenery or extravagant dresses meant I could focus on the singing and the music.  I found it fascinating to observe Jane Clover as she conducted the talented Juilliard Orchestra.

For this reason I like being part of the Young Associates and the Auditions.  It exposes me to things I would otherwise not go to.  It's always important to have an open mind.