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Blythe Spirits: Washington Weekend in Voice

A highlight on the Washington schedule this weekend is the concert appearance of the redoubtable Stephanie Blythe on Sunday evening. Blythe is a vocal phenomenon, with a honker of a voice that has the physical presence to blow you out of your seat, or at least, make you feel thus blown. At her best, she's a force of nature: good in Handel, Gluck, and other roles that call for the richness of a real contralto.

Interestingly, she may not be a natural dramatic mezzo, at least in the Italian repertory. This was the impression I got when she sang Amneris (in a costume modeled on the one Louise Homer wore in 1909) at the Metropolitan Opera's 125th anniversary gala in March; she showed a surprising lack of legato in a part that just aches to be sung with honeyed, flowing lines.

However, she's a singer I admire tremendously, and I'm looking forward to her concert, where - with arias from "Samson et Dalilah," "Ballo in Maschera," and "Orfeo," among others - she will have a chance to prove me wrong about her dramatic-mezzo propensities. Also on the program is the soprano Nathalie Paulin.

Another highlight for many opera lovers is Placido Domingo's concert "From My Latin Soul" tonight at Constitution Hall. And since I mentioned the Met gala, which also marked Domingo's 40th anniversary with the company, this is an opportunity for me to observe how impressively well Domingo sang that night. Yes, he did the big duet from Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra," the baritone role that he used to say would be the last of his career, and which he is indeed going to sing in its entirety several times in the coming season (though he does have engagements beyond that). He was a throaty Dick Johnson ("Fanciulla del West"), and a strong Parsifal. But the best thing he did was Verdi's Otello, which used to be touted as one of his parade roles. It's a tough role for any tenor; I didn't used to think it was actually Domingo's best. But his performance of "Niun mi tema" in March was the best I have ever heard him do - showing that even in his seventh decade, he can deliver a truly memorable performance.


There are too many concerts this weekend for The Washington Post to cover. They include the Alexandria Symphony (both in the final concert of its regular season on Saturday and in an appearance with Alessandra Marc at the National Gallery on Sunday); Daniel Bernard Roumain at the Kennedy Center's Crosscurrents festival; and, in Baltimore, the flutist Emmanuel Pahud with Trevor Pinnock on harpsichord at Shriver Hall.
Have comments about weekend concerts you've seen? Post them in the Comments section.

By Anne Midgette  |  May 1, 2009; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Washington , news , opera  
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