Great Artistry with A Mediocre Title: “A Winter’s Evening”

A still from “A Winter’s Evening.”

Presented by Boston Lyric Opera 
Hosted by reigning Miss Massachusetts Sabrina Victor
Directed by Nathan Troup
Zaira Meneses, Classical Guitarist
Gabriella Reyes, Soprano
Brett Hodgdon, Pianist

Recorded at the Trustees’ Castle Hill at the Crane Estate, in Ipswich, MA
Available on Operabox.tv and the BLO website

Critique by Kitty Drexel

OPERABOX — Gabriella Reyes has a gorgeous dramatic soprano voice. Reyes sings repertoire favorites from Puccini and Strauss, traditional Christmas songs, and art song in Spanish. Her concert is a delight and anyone who can should watch it to support her.

High viewing numbers will also encourage the BLO to produce similar concerts. There are many talented, over-educated opera singers in the Boston-area that would stab your grandmother for the chance to perform one of these concerts. I used to be one of them. It’s in everyone’s vested interest for this concert to do well… And, it also happens to be lovely.  

Reyes’ headshot. Eyebrows on fleek. Do people still say fleek? I feel old.

The Strauss, Puccini, and Korngold arias are performed in the operatic style: full-bodied and without the need for a microphone. (Mics were used in this recording for purposes of sound mixing and editing. Reyes certainly doesn’t need them for projection in such a small space as the Castle Hill ballroom.)

“Marietta’s Lied” is impressively performed. She’s a powerhouse. 

Reyes stands still (park and bark) for these pieces. She occasionally throws in a planned gesture. Vocalists are taught that movement should be kept to a minimum so the music is the focus. Unfortunately, modern audiences want more. No matter what the vocal coaches say, we expect performers to be comfortable enough to move naturally even when performing the most difficult repertoire. Reyes sounds great but looks uncomfortable. It takes us out of the moment.  

Her pieces in Spanish, “Nana,’ “Gracias a la vida,” and “Alma mia” were performed in a mixed operatic/musical theatre legit technique while seated. Reyes was much more comfortable performing these songs. It wasn’t her seated position; it wasn’t her easy camaraderie Zaira Meneses. It was because Reyes was allowed to be herself. If a concert isn’t the time for an operatic performer to be herself, then there is no other time. 

An opera singer can relax into a concert and perform the music with artistic integrity. Why else submit to such exacting rehearsals? It makes me wonder what kinds of conflicting information Reyes was given by the BLO production staff and crew.  At a certain point, vocalists should be left alone to enjoy the performance for which they’ve prepared so hard.  

Meneses and Brett Hodgdon are excellent accompanists. They looked up; they breathed with Reyes; they took their cues from her. They weren’t merely following; they were making music with Reyes. 

Miss Massachusetts Sabrina Victor’s talent is wasted in this recording. She exists in this recording to sell the Trustees’ Castle Hill at the Crane Estate to potential renters by stating historical data and pointing out pretty views. I’m not going to begrudge any artist a gig. We do what we have to do. That being said, the producers of “A Winter’s Evening” could have given Victor more to do. She deserves to be more than a walking advertisement for the 10%.  

Sabrina Victor’s glamorous as heck headshot.

The title, “A Winter’s Evening” lacks originality in the same way that calling a recital of music written during the classical period “Mostly Mozart” is redundant. Of course, it’s a winter’s evening! It’s December.

But what is happening during the evening? Is it a winter’s textile recycling? Is it a winter’s kitten adoption? No, it’s a winter evening’s recital of classical and contemporary pieces. The BLO has many creative people on its staff. This hacky title could have been avoided.

The BLO has made this concert accessible to viewers by making it $20 – a steal even before the pandemic.  Viewers have seven days to watch it. The blurb on the website doesn’t say anything about repeat viewing so one could assume that it’s possible to watch it repeatedly during those seven days. Sure, Netflix is cheaper but Netflix doesn’t support live performance. 

Happy Christmas! Feliz Navidad! I hope 2021 brings everyone a free vaccine and great joy.

Program
“Cäcilie,” Op. 27 No. 2, by Richard Strauss
“O mio babbino caro,” from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini
“Silent Night / Noche de paz,” by Franz Xaver Gruber
“Quando m’en vo,” from La bohème by Giacomo Puccini
“When You Wish Upon a Star,” by Harline & Washington
“Over the Rainbow,” by Arlen & Harburg
“Chi il bel sogno,” from La rondine by Giacomo Puccini
“Nana,” by Manuel De Falla
“Gracias a la vida,” by Violeta Parra Sandoval
“Alma mia,” by María Grever
“Marietta’s Lied,” from Die tote Stadt by Erich Korngold
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from Meet Me In St. Louis by Blane & Martin

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