Eager Merola supporters started lining up nearly an hour before the start time of the Merola Auditions for the General Director, which took place on the stage of the Opera House following this Sunday's matinee of Tales of Hoffman. It took about an hour and fifty minutes for all 23 singers to audition for General Director David Gockley. The invited audience, seated in the boxes & grand tier, was asked not to applaud until the very end.
All the Merolini gave clean, polished performances & sang out loudly. The voices seemed very uniform. Baritone Alex DeSocio sang "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Faust with an open, ringing sound. Soprano Linda Barnett's "Tu che di gel sei cinta" from Turandot was focussed & chilling. I liked the connected singing of baritone Chris Carr in Silvio's aria from Pagliacci. Tenor Issachah Savage was arresting & sang gorgeous high notes in an aria from Andrea Chenier. I thought tenor Robert Watson had an interesting tension in his voice. Mezzo Zanda Švēde has a distinctive deep, viscous voice. She sounds like an alto. Tenor Darren Pene Pati has a hugely warm stage presence as well as a warm, pleasing sound. His version of "Che gelida manina" from Boheme was refreshingly musical. It elicited a "Bravo" from Mr. Gockley. Bass-baritone Thomas Richards gave a powerful performance of Claggart's monologue from Billy Budd that made me feel I was actually watching the opera, & Mr. Gockley responded with another "Bravo."
The singers were accompanied by Merola's 5 apprentice coaches. Jeremy Weissmann was a flowery pianist, especially when imitating Papageno's bells for bass-baritone Rhys Talbot. Pianist Michael Shannon's playing was clearly-stated & precise. There were callbacks for mezzo Rihab Chaieb, tenor Issachah Savage, soprano Maria Valdes, mezzo Zanda Švēde, tenor Darren Pene Pati, & mezzo Daryl Freedman. I enjoyed Mr. Savage's unexpected 2nd offering, Siegmund's "Ein Schwert" monologue from Die Walküre. I wanted him to keep going through to "Wintersturm."
§ Merola Auditions for the General Director
Sunday, June 23, 6:00 PM
War Memorial Opera House Mainstage