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Peretyatko makes spectacular Met debut in “Puritani”

April 18, 2014 at 1:24 pm
Olga Peretyatko is Elvira in the Metropolitan Opera production of Bellini's "I Puritani." Photo: Ken Howard

Olga Peretyatko is Elvira in the Metropolitan Opera production of Bellini’s “I Puritani.” Photo: Ken Howard

The last woman to sing Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani at the Met was Anna Netrebko in 2007. On Thursday, in the hands of another Russian soprano, a true coloratura, the opera seemed an entirely different piece.

Olga Peretyatko’s company debut was highly anticipated, and proved highly rewarding. She possesses a spectacularly nimble voice, and displayed pinpoint coloratura. Her sound is light from low to high, her top is free and secure, and her intonation is about as close to perfect as it comes, once or twice reaching just barely shy of a high note. She threw out her staccati like darts, each one landing with a burst of light. It’s no wonder she was fearless with her ornamentation, climbing the ladder at every opportunity.

Beyond her astonishing technique, Peretyatko displayed tremendous artistry, working her wailing runs into a compelling interpretation. In her famous mad scene, “Qui la voce” started out a bit straight, almost colorless, but bloomed as it progressed, twisting and turning through the painfully sweet, arching lines. Here and in the third act she displayed jaw-dropping hairpin dynamics on top, floating a pianissimo, growing to a forte, and coming back down. The following cabaletta glittered, though it could have stood to go a hair faster.

Not to be outdone in the vocal acrobatics department, Lawrence Brownlee went for Arturo’s famous F5, and got it. It wasn’t the best he’s ever unleashed, but it was there, and really in his chest. What impressed more were his high D’s, which were full-throttle and seemingly endless. Often a singer of the stand-and-deliver variety, Brownlee seemed particularly invested in this role. He did not throw himself around the stage (though he very convincingly manhandled the Roundhead soldiers in the third act), but there was a noble intensity about him that he channeled into passionately dramatic singing.

Peretyatko, for her part, oversold her descent into madness (which, to be fair, has to happen in a dozen bars or so), but once she got there, she was completely and convincingly in her own world, working herself into a disturbing trance that lasted the entire second act.

That second act is in fact the only one in which Sandro Sequi’s 1976 production brings any interest. The cavernous staircase and faded splendor of the house make Elvira, flitting about in her white dress and veil, seem like a specter out of a Poe story. Otherwise, it seems as though the staging wasn’t completely dusted off, its costumes and sets simply offering the actors something to wear and somewhere to stand.

Michele Pertusi, truly shone as Elvira’s uncle Giorgio. He brought his usual roundness of tone, a voice at once booming and buoyant. His “Cinta di fiori,” describing his niece’s madness, was liquid gold, tenderly sung but with a clutching intensity that hinted at his terrible emotional pain.

The Belarusian baritone Maksim Aniskin made a last-minute debut stepping in for the ailing Mariusz Kwiecien as Riccardo. His voice felt a little small for the Met, and some of his ornamentation was clumsy, but given the circumstances he acquitted himself admirably, singing with an even tone and intelligent phrasing. Elizabeth Bishop brought a full, pillowy voice to the role of Enrichetta, and Eduardo Valdes rounded out the strong supporting cast as Bruno, his caramel tone spilling freely and easily into the house.

In the pit, Michele Mariotti had a slow start with a blaring overture, but quickly found his balance and thereafter led a crisp, spirited reading. The music glittered and bounced, as any good bel canto performance should, but Mariotti found much more than frivolity in the score, laying molasses-thick strings into lyrical sections. His pacing was mostly sensitive to the needs of the music, though he occasionally became sluggish, seeming to give into his singers’ tempi, most notably in the Act 2 duet “Il rival salvar tu dei.”

I Puritani runs through May 10 at the Metropolitan Opera. metoperafamily.org

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