So wrote Charles Ward in The Houston Chronicle about baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky's first-ever performance in the title role of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra for Houston Grand Opera last weekend (Oct. 21).
"His technique always is finished beautifully," said Ward, who also admired the baritone's acting, suggesting that "with [his] death scene Hvorostovsky provided a lesson for every soprano who expires."
"But Verdi gave the applause-winning vocal turns to other characters," Ward pointed out — and the singers who played those characters in Houston delivered. As Boccanegra's long-lost daughter Amelia, soprano Olga Guryakova "found just the right emotional tone for each [of her dramatic moments], often using the occasionally quirky coloring of her voice for striking effect." Marco Berti "seemed the unrepentant Italian tenor" as Boccanegra's enemy-turned-supporter, Gabriele Adorno: "He had blisteringly strong high notes, all the Italianate throaty inflections ... and a capacity to scale everything back for moments of intimacy. His singing wasn't subtle, but it was exciting."
As Fiesco, Amelia's grandfather and Boccanegra's enemy, bass Raymond Aceto was "strong ... When his bass notes rumbled, they rumbled authoritatively." Patrick Carfizzi used his "well-finished" bass-baritone "to infuse his portrait [of the henchman Paolo] with menace and malevolence."
Company music director Patrick Summers and the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus "polished everything with a warm, flexible sound and propelled the drama forward with a strong pace," said Ward. "Their work added to the pleasure of a rare encounter with Simon Boccanegra."
Houston Grand Opera's production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, directed by Elijah Moshinsky and starring Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Olga Guryakova, Marco Berti, Raymond Aceto and Patrick Carfizzi, continues for three more performances — tonight, October 29 and November 4 — at the Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. For more information, visit www.houstongrandopera.org.