Gutierrez displays highest artistry in wide-ranging recital

Cuban-born soprano Eglise Gutierrez scored a triumph in a wide-ranging recital Saturday night at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall, presented by Orchestra Miami and the Miami Civic Music Association. Encompassing Baroque and bel canto arias, French and Russian art songs and music of Spain and Cuba, Gutierrez’s program was shrewdly chosen to display her versatility, coloratura agility and emotional intensity—Lawrence Budmen writes in this article for South Florida Classical Review.

A former Miamian, Gutierrez has sung leading roles at major opera houses in Rome, Hamburg, Berlin and London. The concert was preceded by nearly a half-hour of filmed excerpts from Gutierrez’s performances in operas by Massenet, Bellini and Verdi. While not uninteresting, these videos held up the program and were easily dwarfed by the soprano’s live performance with Elaine Rinaldi at the piano. Gutierrez’s voice has grown in size and depth in recent years, combining a throbbing drama with high-ranging vocal flights.

She captured the sweetness and classical grace of Paisello’s Nel cor piu non mi sento, her trills deft and perfectly executed. Piangero la sorte mia, the captive Cleopatra’s aria from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, was exquisite, the stream of tone pure and evenly produced. In the dramatic central section, Gutierrez exhibited real theatrical temperament and flair.

Two songs by Rachmaninoff were compelling mini-dramas, imbued with poignancy and sadness, the singer’s lower register darkly beautiful. Gutierrez’s charm and elegance came to the fore in three French songs. Only Faure’s Apres un Reve was too cool, the ethereal mood undercut by an overly fast tempo. A ravishing high pianissimo capped a lovely version of Reynaldo Hahn’s L’heure exquise, the rippling piano line winningly spun by Rinaldi. Eva Dell’Acqua’s Villanelle was once a familiar coloratura staple. Gutierrez’s revival of this showpiece was a feast of high-flying roulades, the hurdles surmounted with aplomb and capped with a stunning high C.

She sang the complete Shadow Song, Ombre legere, from Meyerbeer’s Dinorah rather than the truncated version favored by most sopranos. The wild leaps between registers in the usually omitted middle section held no terrors for Gutierrez. Elissa Lakofsky was the expert flute soloist, perfectly in sync with the soprano’s pyrotechnics. The dreamy, side of operatic bel canto found expressive force in Gutierrez’s ruminative, silvery rendition of Oh, quante volte, Juliet’s aria from Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi. (The soprano is scheduled to sing this role in July at the Caramoor Festival.)

In two of Enrique Granados’ Tonadillas, her sly, playful wit and scintillating vocalism recalled the great Spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles. She brought romantic languor and wonderful gradations of dynamics to The Nightingale and the Star from Granados’ opera Goyescas.

Tragedy and heartbreak were skillfully traced in the small-scale music drama of Eduardo Sanchez de Fuentes’ La Nina de Guatamala, the final soft high note held at length. Three songs by Ernesto Lecuona were inevitable audience favorites. These lyrical, rhapsodic tales of unrequited love were sung with the concentration and artistry of fine art song. A soaring version of Depuis le jour from Gustave Charpentier’s Louise was the luxuriant encore.

Rinaldi was a stalwart accompanist, encompassing the drama of Rachmaninoff, stylish classical and Baroque strophes and the rhythmic lilt of Spanish and Cuban melodies. Her fine pianism expertly partnered Gutierrez without ever overpowering her soloist.

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