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Steven LaCosse, Artistic Director of the Fletcher Opera Institute and stage director for its current production, welcomed the audience after a hiatus of two years. He also warned us that the current production was under-rehearsed, due not only to sporadic outbreaks of Covid-19, but also to several cancellations caused by wintry weather. In fact, one might have noticed a few sloppy entrances in the orchestra, and perhaps some singers felt less at their ease, but by and large the performance was excellent, and in many cases outstanding.
Linda di Chamounix is, according to the composer Gaetano Donizetti, "a semi-serious melodrama in three acts." One of the leading composers of the bel canto style of opera (along with Rossini and Bellini), Donizetti wrote over 60 operas, of which Don Pasquale, L'elisir d'amore, La fille du régiment and Lucia di Lammermoor are the most often performed.
Choosing to omit the Overture in favor of the optional Preludio, as Donizetti suggests in the score of the opera, Maestro James Allbritten opened the evening with the rich sound of muted strings, while the curtain rose on an alpine scene (kudos to Sarah Webster, scene design). A mountain chalet, the home of Linda and her parents, filled the rear of the stage. Bells rang and an a capella chorus as has never graced la Haute-Savoie filled the Stevens Center.
Maddalena, Linda's mother, (sung by Katherine Ledbetter) had a very strong voice with impeccable intonation, and a quality which is still immature, but promising. She was joined by Linda's father, Antonio (sung by Scott Lee) whose powerful bass voice filled the theater.
While the stage fills with townsfolk, dressed in their Sunday best, we also meet the Marquis de Boisfleury, a member of the aristocracy who owns the deeds to the lands the villagers work and inhabit, adroitly portrayed by baritone Lawrence Hall, who matched his lovely voice to the role he is playing at the moment – seductive when trying to woe Linda, sarcastic when rebuffed, and humorous when all else seems to have failed. His intendant, David Maize, had a promising tenor voice.
Finally, Linda enters with a bouquet of flowers, left by her lover when she arrived too late for them to meet. Pretty and petite, Margaret Ann Zentner had a lovely and warm soprano voice handled with a supple ease, which was dazzling!
Her lover Carlo, the Vicomte de Sirval (disguised as poor artist) was played on opening night by Kameron Alston, a tall and handsome lyrical tenor with a lovely voice (but uneven, depending on the tessitura). Time and experience will round some edges, completing his style.
The Prefect, Michael Redding, is an alumnus of UNCSA, and a wonderful bass voice, rich and dark, smooth and nuanced, powerful when he warns Linda of the Vicomte's intentions, and soothing when reassuring her parents.
The most beguiling character in the story is that of the orphan, Pierotto, sung as a "pants role" by Danielle Romano, mezzo-soprano, always with her hurdy-gurdy in hand, ready to sing a song to solve a problem.
Some of the best ensemble singing took place as the five men sang a moving quintet at the end of the third act – which was followed irreverently by a bit of can-can music in the orchestra.
The opera is sung in Italian with English Supertitles. The performance repeats on Sunday and Tuesday. See sidebar for details.