Soprano Melanie Diener
The success of the evening came down, first and foremost, to the casting, led by a full-powered, dramatically inspired Leonore from German dramatic soprano Melanie Diener, who has made a name in the role, in Paris for example. At a few points, one could complain of a tendency toward the edge of flatness, but it was an incendiary performance, with only the highest notes -- up to high B in the big Act I aria, "Komm, Hoffnung" -- a little unsure. That would have been enough to enjoy the performance, but Diener was matched by the heroic tenor of Simon O'Neill as Florestan: when he made his entrance, in his prison monologue at the opening of Act II, he sailed a gleaming high G effortlessly through the hall, a dim acoustic under the best of circumstances. Veteran bass Eric Halfvarson, after a rough start in the opening ensemble, was a rock-solid Rocco, with the booming speaking voice to match, while baritone Tomasz Konieczny was an appropriately villainous Don Pizarro, but with an oddly nasal placement and some strange vowel colors in his German.
In roles filled out by younger singers, soprano Jegyung Yang sounded remarkably fresh as Marzelline, especially for someone coming off a series of performances as Despina in the Young Artists cast of Così fan tutte at Washington National Opera and having to take first soprano over a voice like Diener's in the ensembles. Young baritone Kyle Ketelsen, remembered at Washington National Opera a few years ago, was an elegant and authoritative Don Fernando, and tenor Paul Appleby put his bright, ringing tone to good use as Jaquino. Even the two cameo roles of prisoners were sung well by Jeffrey Gwaltney and Aleksey Bogdanov. The men of the Choral Arts Society of Washington sang the prisoners' chorus with affecting strength, and the entire group gave the needed ecstatic oomph to the final choral scene.
Anne Midgette, A festive ‘Fidelio’ from National Symphony Orchestra (Washington Post, March 16)
David Patrick Stearns, Moving on, Eschenbach has a vigorous Act 2 in D.C (Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16)
This performance will repeat only once, this evening (March 17, 8 pm) in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. You do not want to miss it.