Zambalis a lovely Mimi in 'La Boheme'

April 25, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The Baltimore Opera Company's new staging at the Lyric Opera House of one of the most popular operas ever written, Puccini's "La Boheme," also happens to be one of the BOC's best productions. This "Boheme" boasts fine-looking sets by Holly Highfill (made all the more impressive by comparison with the bargain-basement decor of last month's set for "Macbeth"); six youthful singing actors and actresses who comprise a mostly attractive bunch of Bohemians; and performances that are intelligently directed by John Lehmeyer, who also designed the costumes.

The outstanding feature of the production this past Saturday evening was probably the beautifully sung Mimi of soprano Stella Zambalis. In a post-feminist age, the Puccinian "little woman" can be hard to take. But Zambalis sometimes gave the impression that she was living the part. It was a melting and tender performance that made the tubercular, doomed Mimi all too believable. Moreover, her singing was consistently beautiful. She had the rich top register necessary for the splendid bloom of the climax of "Si, mic chiamano Mimi"; and she commanded the beauty of phrasing and changes of tone color necessary for the creation of Puccinian pathos.

PD Unfortunately, her Rodolfo, tenor Vincenzo Scuderi, was not able

(on this occasion, at least) to partner Zambalis on equitable terms. The voice did not have a scope that ranged from lyrical tenderness to heroic power, and there were times at which it seemed to disappear when juxtaposed to hers.

It's too bad that Rodolfo could not have been sung by as romantic-looking and as heroic-sounding a singer as baritone Manuel Lanza, who took the part of Marcello. This young Spaniard (he's not yet 30) should have a big career. His singing is beautiful, his acting is intelligent, and he has taste -- there was never a descent (all too tempting where Puccini is concerned) to crooning.

Lanza's Musetta was Deidra Palmour, so impressive last year as the Fox in the Washington Opera's "The Cunning Little Vixen" and equally sensitive here to the role's demands for vivacity, coquettishness and tenderness.

As the other Bohemians, Stephen Goodsell was a fine Schaunard, and George Reid was prevented by a vocal indisposition from summoning the power necessary at the end of Colline's coat song. The orchestra played well under the knowledgeable direction of Louis Salemno.

"La Boheme" will be repeated Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:15 p.m. and May 1 at 3 p.m.

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