Last Friday, July 8, 2011 we had the wonderful opportunity to witness part of "Norma" given at Tanglewood. the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox, MA. There were several heroes that night including Charles Dutoit who led the ensemble with great assurance. For Angela Meade, a rising soprano star this was a major breakthrough in her career. Despite having sung small roles at Caramoor and sing Ernani at the MET, she has largely been overshadowed by regning divas.
The concert begins with extended excerpts from Act I of Bellini’s Norma featuring the young American soprano Angela Meade and Sicilian tenor Roberto De Biasio, both debutting with the BSO, young American mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson and internationally renowned American bass-baritone James Morris. One could feel the palpable energy of Dutoit as he guided the singers and orchestra through the difficult bel canto phrasing. Their were notable highlights from all of the solists, with the chorus providing a beautiful color and shading to the choruses. Despite the dismal weather this was an evening to celebrate both opera and the performers. Meade received her training at the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts and was a finalist at the MET competition. While her singing was quite elegant, it appear to change over time into a forced vibrato which bordered on pushing it too much.
We have seen Ms. Meade at Carnegie Hall as a soloist in the Rossini Stabat Mater and at last year's Richard Tucker Gala. She definately has sufficient technical skills, but only the future will be able to judge her ability to act and convey emotion. I was quite impressed with the mezzo and tenor and this made for a joyous evening. The legacy of James Levine was palpable in that this was his type of concert. Only in recent years has this venue performed operatic excerpts. Dutoit deserves hearty accolades as a last minute replacement for the ailing Levine. His zeal and energy were quite evident from our birds-eye view from the 1st row.
John Oliver, the longstanding leader of the Tanglewood Musical Festival Chorus was stunning in his ability to direct the chorus to support to the singers. You owe it to yourself to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Tanglewood. It has the ability to drwan you in for a joyous ride into sheer blis.