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30.3.05

La Freni: She's Got It Maid!

Photo by Karin Cooper
Mirella Freni as Joan of Arc
Last Saturday, the Washington National Opera premiered The Maid of Orleans, one of Tchaikovsky's rarely heard operas. For those who do not think that the chance to hear an operatic rarity by a master of the genre is reason enough to purchase a ticket, the WNO put a woman on stage whom no opera lover can resist: Mirella Freni. The woman was considered one of the finest sopranos on stage and record before I was even born. After 50 years of performing—she is now at the tender age of seventy—she can still sing and, as the reviews show, impressively portray a seventeen-year-old.

Other Reviews:

Tim Page (Washington Post)

Bernard Holland (New York Times)

T. L. Ponick (Washington Times)

Clarke Bustard (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Ionarts will review tomorrow's performance and for all the work's shortcomings (T.L. Ponick's review in the Washington Times pretty much sums it up), it is an exciting opportunity we are not wont to miss. Since recordings are very difficult to come by—pirated copies of a 1960s Russian performance may float around, the officially available scrawny 1944 recording seems unavailable, and a 1993 Bolshoi performance has found its way onto video but isn't likely to be carried by your neighborhood record store either—it is likely your first and only chance to hear the work which, although no Eugene Onegin, contains marvelous moments from the tune-smith Tchaikovsky.

And then there is still La Freni, perfectly adept at playing it to the crowd to this day. Remaining performances take place on March 31st (7:30 PM) and April 3rd (2 PM), 5th (7:30 PM), 8th (7:30 PM), and 11th (7 PM).

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