The 2005 crop of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Renwick last year
Seven operas, all by living composers, were grouped on either side of the Stravinsky: William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge (Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience was well received by Charles); Henry Mollicone’s Coyote Tales, Conrad Susa’s Dangerous Liaisons, Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights, John Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles, Robert Ward’s The Crucible, and Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata.
These were all well-rehearsed ready-for-stage performances, the singers’ enunciation consistently clear enough that the thoughtfully provided text sheets really weren’t needed. The Grand Salon has room enough to accommodate the larger voices, such as the deep, dark baritone of Obed Ureña, who after warming up a bit, was outstanding in the Ward duet with mezzo Erin Elizabeth Smith (also excellent).
The music presented varied in quality, but each selection hued to the mainstream eclectic-modern-tonally based American opera formula, with occasional touches of Broadway, though Mr. Susa’s letter aria was perhaps too pinched and dry for the talents of mezzo Leslie Mutchler (Zulma in the current run of L’Italiana), whose warm voice made a finer impression in the Corigliano duet with soprano JiYoung Lee (the duet a melancholic reflection by the Rosina and Susanna characters from Figaro, carried forward to the French Revolution in Mr. Corigliano’s conceit).
With short excerpts from such diverse works, it’s tough to say which might be the most stageworthy, but Coyote Tales (vignettes from Native American mythology) caught the ear (too easily, perhaps?), The Crucible has made its mark on stage (the duet here finely dramatic), and the Adamo clearly has a lot going for it and got good marks from Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times. Theatrical-wise, the Young Artists saved the best for a last, with Adamo’s lively and witty duet-combat over withholding sex until men give up their martial tendencies, thoroughly chewed up by tenor Greg Warren and soprano Christina Martos. The dust was flying off the Salon’s ancient padded circular couch, and that Ms. Martos, big-voiced and agile, showed the kind of perfect pitch the Washington Nationals desperately need, at least in the bracelet-toss.
A nice showcase, both for American opera and young singers, which left the audience wanting more. Able support and direction from Young Artists conductor Steven Jarvi, and pianists James Lesniak and Matthew Ottenlips, each of whom delivered the goods without distracting attention from the singers.