08 March 2005

Luciana D'Intino

An Italian Eboli at the Met Don Carlo

Lois Kirschenbaum (white hair, foreground) tells Luciana D'Intino (diva pose, center) that she stands tall among the great Italian mezzo-sopranos Giulietta Simionato and Fiorenza Cossotto. Another member of her posse asks D'Intino if she ever studied with Fedora Barbieri, citing the superficial similarity in their mezzo-bark. While I won't go as far as these fanatics in characterizing New York's "newly discovered" talent (and no, her mezzo is not as crude as Barbieri's), I will say that she is a breath of fresh Italian air, and a welcome addition to the Verdi mezzo round-robin tasked to fill the shoes of our Dolora Zajick, who seems to be quietly receding out into the gilded pages of history. (Bradley Wilber's indispensable Met futures page lists her only in Tobias Picker's commission The American Tragedy, set to world-premiere next season.)

D'Intino goes down the register full-throttle, and her resonant chest is "elegantly filthy," which ought to please the depraved and the purist alike. There's some difficulty in prolonging top notes (she can reach them honestly, but runs out of breath before they can make a majestic impression), which in the role of Eboli provides the final push from extraordinary to exceptional. Zajick brings Verdi's grand opera to a halt (and a momentary rupture of its careful symmetry) with the final "un di mi resta" verse of "O don fatale", seeming to just be warming up for more. In comparison, D'Intino goal is to get through it without hurting herself. With the help of her sensitive conductor Fabio Luisi, she speeds up the meter and comes out unscathed. Which is all OK, because it's about the only "negative" comment any bitter opera queen can come up with reasonably. But in other parts: the Veil Song, Eboli's fearless entrance, is the ruby on D'Intino's crown. Again, Fabio Luisi is partly responsible: he plays to D'Intino's strengths, allowing her virtuosic vocal calisthenics to dictate the orchestral cadence and dynamics. She was magnificent during Act III scene with Carlo and Rodrigo: fiery and vengeful.

D'Intino says she hasn't yet been engaged by the Met for any future performances (her only other upcoming Big Apple stint is with the New York Philharmonic, for a Verdi Requiem next season). Let's see how slow the Met can do this one.

[P.S. If you're wondering, the Sondra worship post will come later.]