Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Roméo et Juliette at Spoleto: Reviews

Creamy Coloratura

This was the Carolinas’ first look at Chicago-based soprano Nicole Cabell after her 2005 triumph as BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. The soprano displayed creamy coloratura and a warm dramatic tone, plus stamina enough to deliver the long Act IV monologue and Act V duet with firm control. She’s an expressive actress, with a long, high-cheekboned face that would have interested Modigliani, and she supplied the action with the sense of doom directors Clarac and Deloeil wanted from the start.

Lawrence Toppman,

Opera News,
August 2006

Palmetto Pleasures
Spoleto Festival operas challenge and illuminate

Charleston’s yearly Spoleto Festival USA is a heady whirlwind of the arts is a lovely setting, with history, cuisine, and leisure opportunities almost too numerous to explore. And yes, there’s a gay vibe afloat if you look.

[My] quarry was operatic—“Roméo et Juliette,” suddenly and deservedly popular again. [The opera] featured outstanding ensemble work from soloists and chorus alike—sometimes hampered, sometimes aided by aggressively activist directors. Gounod’s Shakespearean tragedy was successful largely due to the stylistic conviction and lavish vocal gifts of its highly attractive leading couple. 2005 “Singer of the World” Nicole Cabell showed herself a finely detailed tragic actress, with truly a lovely sound and presence. Consonants could occasionally have been more distinct but she phrased with utmost musicality and feeling; the difficult potion aria was absolutely thrilling.

Take notice—the next major francophone tenor may be young Québecois Frédéric Antoun, who enacted Roméo with disarming sincerity as a dreamy loner. His darkish lyric voice offered admirable dynamic variety and beautifully forward diction. Despite occasional flatting in the tricky transitional “passagio,” high notes above it were secure and exciting. Both Cabell and Antoun have the goods for major careers.

The production by Opéra Français de New York’s Jean-Philippe Clarac/Olivier Deloueil drew some audience puzzlement—the action took place in a corporate funeral home, seemingly protected by a Mafia boss Duke (the veteran Malcolm Smith, very creditable). The Capulets were soulless technocrats and the Montagues a loose bunch of “retro hip” slackers; any sense of rival houses vanished.

Some touches misfired—flashlights in the audience’s eyes, a tired pseudo-Brechtian device which need never, ever be used again, and a gratuitous drag scene for Mercutio during his “Mab” narration, serving only to obscure the notably excellent style and voice of Paris-trained Kevin Greenlaw. However, certain scenes showed unusual flair and psychological insight, like a playfully sexy “Ange adorable” that really seemed like two adolescents meeting and an affecting, improvised-seeming wedding scene—in a lab room!

As Capulet, Brian Mulligan—so far only given crumbs at the Met—exhibited a fine, strong leading baritone. Despite iffy French, Rosendo Flores made a sonorous Laurent, here a mortuary priest and doctor. Christine Abraham and Victor Ryan Robertson brought fiery personality and good sound to Stéphano and Tybalt. Tomasso Placidi led with Romantic sweep but supported the singers’ phrasing, never neglecting Gounod’s coloristic detail.

By David Shengold
Gay City News
June 15 - 21, 2006

[Frédéric Antoun's] Juliette is Chicago-based soprano Nicole Cabell. She was the 2005 winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, the top prize for emerging opera talent. Cabell is tall and beautiful with a distinctive voice. Hers is a bright sound with bite. She also has the all-important middle and low notes that extend her repertoire possibilities beyond the chirper status. Her voice is gilded with a dusky overcoat that adds sensuality and gives sophisticated colour to her freshness. Her formidable coloratura placement is pitch perfect. Cabell's connection with text is also an actor's dream.

Paula Citron

Nicole Cabell sang her heart out in “Romeo et Juliette.” We just wish she had even more to sing.

Jeffrey Day
The State
11 June 2006

Ovation continues for 'Romeo et Juliette'

As part of Spoleto Festival USA, a new production of Charles Francois Gounod's grand opera "Romeo et Juliette" opened Friday night at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium to a packed house which [...] offered at the end a standing ovation that might have run on without end if the stage lights had not been dimmed.

[Maestro Tommaso] Placidi was lucky to have an exquisite Juliette in soprano Nicole Cabell, who portrayed one of the star-crossed lovers with genuine feeling and a rich imagination. Her voice is powerful and beautiful in style and color. She delivered, with grace and ease, some intensely moving and stratospheric vocal pyrotechnics, literally breath-taking. In addition to looking the part, her lyric-coloratura voice was second to none.

Tenor Frédéric Antoun as Romeo mirrored the high-caliber style of Cabell, with an impressive and fiery creation.

The Post and Courier
May 27, 2006

And, ah, the soloists. The title roles are beautifully filled. Nicole Cabell’s buttery, gleaming soprano caresses the ear nonstop, and she shows a true diva’s instincts onstage. She manages the transition from giddy young girl to fate-stricken woman very credibly. Her delivery of the harrowing “potion aria” — with its own mini-“mad scene” — is potent, vocally spectacular, and utterly convincing. She’s a true star in the making.

Frédéric Antoun is the perfect moonstruck adolescent. His rich tenor is smooth and even from top to bottom, despite a slight airy quality to some of his highest notes. His soft pianissimo passages are to die for. This young man was born to sing the French repertoire — he handles the language better than anybody (no surprise from a French Canadian).

Lindsay Koob
Charleston City Paper

And now to the main event? the new production of Charles Gounod's 1867 opera "Romeo et Juliette." [...] presented a modernized telling of the story, set in New Jersey of the 1960s or '70s, judging by appearances... [...] In this contemporary incarnation, the famous tale seemed more vital than ever? an extraordinary achievement, considering it's a plot that everyone knows. [...] In fact, there was not a single dull stretch. Much of the credit for this goes to the young stars, Frédéric Antoun (Romeo) and Nicole Cabell (Juliette), who seemed like two impulsive, love-struck kids, coincidentally possessed of superbly trained singing voices. Despite the lofty musical standards of the performance (and it sounded gorgeous), Antoun and Cabell - and indeed, the entire cast - were first and foremost dramatically credible. This is a challenge in a piece where, 10 minutes after meeting Romeo for the first time, Juliette has to say, "If I cannot be his, let my grave be my bridal bed." Cabell sang it and meant it.

The Post and Courier

May 29-30, 2006

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