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Clenny’s West Side Opera Presents Intense “Roberto Devereux” to Benefit LGBTQ Youth
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
(front, left to right) Michael Celentano, Katrin Bulke, David Clenny, Galina Ivannikova, Robert Heepyoung Oh, Amadeo Pabon & Ramon Gabriel S. Tenefrancia (rear) ladies of the court
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On February 26, at Trinity Lutheran Church, as a benefit for the Trinity Place Shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth, the West Side Opera Society, guided by Artistic Director, maestro, and pianist David Clenny, concluded a four-performance, double-cast concert run of composer Gaetano Donizetti and librettist Salvatore Cammarano’s Elizabeth-and-Essex opera “Roberto Devereux” (1837), and an incredibly intense and exceedingly well-sung rendition it was.
Beverly Sills was the unique Queen Elizabeth I of my youth, heard 17 times between 1970 and ’74. This was inevitably different, to be sure, but the four principal assignments, as well as supporting roles, were well cast with fine bel canto singers, who made their mark and left the amazing music, anticipating fiery early Verdi, ringing in the listener’s ears anew.
Michael Celentano made a lyrical, romantic hero, Roberto Devereux, Earl of Essex, young love of the mature Queen of England, triumphant in his Tower of London cavatina “Come un spirto angelico” and cabaletta “Bagnato il sen di lagrime,” in the penultimate scene of the opera. Katrin Bulke, a youthful-appearing Queen, in the absence of weighty costumes and character makeup, gave us bright vocalism, with sometimes surprising, ringing interpolated high notes and apt ornamentation, and captured Elizabeth’s hopefulness in Act One, fury in Act Two, and angry, hurt, and haunted blend in the third act finale, capping cavatina “Vivi, ingrato” with a floated piano high D and climactic cabaletta “Quel sangue versato” with a formidable full-voice top D.
Mezzo-soprano Galina Ivannikova gave us the best Sara, Duchess of Nottingham imaginable, torn between love and torment, and singing in rich, rubicund tone in entrance solo “All’aflitto è dolce il pianto” and desperate duets with Devereux and with sonorous baritone Robert Heepyoung Oh as her suspicious spouse, the Duke of Nottingham, the opera’s heavy, who believably changed in a heartbeat from Roberto’s friend and ally to the nemesis who doomed him Ramon Gabriel S. Tenefrancia and Amadeo Pabon made strong contributions as, respectively, Lord Cecil and Sir Walter Raleigh, advisors to the Queen as poisonous as members of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Kudos, too, go to Edie Hunter, Hajeong Lee, Lauren Rathburn, and Mary Kay McGarvey, the sympathetic ladies of Elizabeth’s court and, above all, to Clenny for venturing such an ambitious undertaking and making it work.

 

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