Met veteran shows her flair

November 12, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale concert last weekend confirmed once again the adage that there's no pro like an old pro.

The evening belonged to Mignon Dunn, who will soon celebrate her 36th season with New York City's Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Dunn has sung all the major mezzo roles -- Carmen, Amneris, Azucena -- at major houses throughout the world. And though her voice is no longer young, it is still supple and fairly attractive and remains at the service of an accomplished vocal artist.

In "Stride la Vampa," one of the gypsy Azucena's smoldering arias from "Il Trovatore," Ms. Dunn showed she is still a red-blooded practitioner of Verdian drama. Verdi's searing vocal line emerged passionately, with great flair imparted to each and every phrase ending and cut-off.

Ms. Dunn is not an on-stage Carmen anymore, but her account of the famous "Habanera" still communicates her take on the ultimate mezzo role. From the way she spat out the word "poeme," we knew her Carmen was no girlish, eye-batting senorita, but an angry spitfire already well aware of life's not-so-subtle ironies.

With maestro Ernest Green and his Annapolis Chamber Orchestra contributing some colorful accompaniments, Ms. Dunn was also at home in four of the Dvorak "Gypsy Songs" arranged for her by her husband, the conductor Kurt Klipperstatter. Especially moving was the gorgeously sustained "Als die alte Mater" (Song My Mother Taught Me).

Alas, Ms. Dunn was a less than ideal soloist in the "Pie Jesu" of Maurice Durufle's "Requiem." The Frenchman's sweet, unaffected melodies do not lend themselves to a vibrato as pronounced as hers.

In much of the "Requiem" the Annapolis Chorale sounded fuzzy, inexact and tentative. The Mass did not sound ensconced in either their hearts or their throats, and some chorale members need to be reminded that a Maryland Hall pianissimo requires just as much energy as a fortissimo anywhere else.

The chorus sounded more mobilized for Brahms' lovely "Nanie" -- albeit in pallid German -- but was let down by square orchestral playing that did nothing to invite the singers into the composer's world of lush, expansive phrases and warm poetic beauty.

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