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In performance: Washington Chorus

Web-only review:

The Washington Chorus piles on the Puccini
by Joe Banno

Refined approaches to Italian verismo opera certainly have their place. But it's hard to resist a groaning slab of Puccini served up with so much sauce and cheese that it's spilling off the plate.

The Washington Chorus's all-Puccini concert on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall celebrated what's been wryly deemed the "can belto" school of opera singing, where outsize passion and sheer lung power trump subtler virtues. In a program comprising Act Two of "La Bohème" and the big, public scenes from "Turandot," Music Director Julian Wachner cranked up the juice in his fine pick-up orchestra every chance he got and revved the chorus to sing with exciting impact -- suitably stentorian in "Turandot," and eagerly communicative in the Gloria from Puccini's early, Verdi-influenced Messa di Gloria.
(read more after the jump)

It was a pleasure to hear Washington National Opera stalwarts Robert Baker, James Shaffran and John Marcus Bindel, and the concert proved a fine showcase for two rising stars in its "Turandot" portion -- Carl Tanner (his weighty, thrilling tenor perfectly matched to this music) and Othalie Graham (with a slicing, yet full-bodied, soprano of Wagnerian amplitude). Less appropriately over-singing, tenor Gaetan Sauvageau tended to yell his way through the more lyrical role of Rodolfo in "La Bohème" (though it was sweet-toned yelling), and it was left to Jill Gardner's lustrous, beautifully poised soprano and Tad Czyzewski's warm and supple baritone to remind us that -- all guilty pleasures aside -- Puccini can be more than the sum of his decibels.

-- Joe Banno

By Anne Midgette  |  November 10, 2009; 6:31 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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I thought the Children's Chorus of Washington did a particularly fine job. Why no mention?

Posted by: naplesgal | November 10, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

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