recurring motif, referring both to how Ivan describes his fall and to his fear of falling into the abyss of the afterlife. As heard on February 21, the baritone Sean Christopher Stork, assured and rarely taxed, articulated Ivan’s words and music clearly, even if it felt like a solid recital turn rather than a lived-in, dramatic performance. Part of the clarity of this scene—and perhaps some of its tentativeness—was due to the fact that Stork wasn’t wearing a mask. Here it must be mentioned that the opera, directed by Grant Preisser in costumes by Alison Reid, was performed under Covid conditions, meaning that at times some performers were singing through face coverings. When Ivan and his wife shared a love duet of sorts, they sang facing each other wearing cloth masks. Naturally, tone and diction were affected. In addition, the opera was performed in the large atrium of the orlando museum of art, and the acoustics were a challenge. Despite this, there were vocal moments to appreciate. Jose-Manuel Lopez as the Russian Orthodox Priest was rarely masked and so his booming bass could be appreciated in full. The finale when he, the Doctor (Stephen Mumbert) and Gerasim (Brent Doucette) sang in unison from the far corners of the atrium was a nice touch. And the brief vocalise sung by Adriana Nieves as Praskovya praying at Ivan’s deathbed was lovely.
The acoustics were less of a challenge for the conductor Deniz Uz and the Alterity Chamber Orchestra. Despite being distanced and masked (a face shield for the oboist), they excelled in the orchestral interlude and their playing was steady. It always felt operatic—chamber operatic to be sure, but in the current climate, no small feat.
This adaptation could have been more brilliant but it was perfectly respectable. The production is scheduled to travel to Michigan in the autumn. To experience this work in the midst of a pandemic was powerful but the slow suffering of Ivan Ilyich might better be witnessed outside the Covid-era cauldron of its creation. james c. taylor
West Palm Beach When palm beach opera was organizing its outdoor festival, which ran for nine days in February at the ithink financial amphitheatre, it found—due to the Covid lockdown—a ready supply of top-level artists to perform in semi-staged concerts of La Bohème, Die Zauberflöte and Pagliacci.
‘The casting happened more quickly than you might expect,’ the general director David Walker said in an interview. ‘I knew that singers’ gigs were getting cancelled and they wouldn’t have performing opportunities and would be open and available. Sam Ramey was one of our first big names, but he had to pull out because he hurt his shoulder. Matthew Polenzani was also one of the first, and then the rest of our line-up came together.’
La Bohème opened the festival on February 19, and to hear it with a cast including Michael Fabiano, Latonia Moore, Isabel Leonard, Quinn Kelsey and Ryan Speedo Green was like a dream come true for an opera-goer who because of the pandemic had not experienced a performance live and in person for almost a year. Not only were the singers world-class, but the open-air setting was delightful on a balmy night in Florida when much of the US was snowbound.
PBO, which celebrates its 60th anniversary next season, normally performs at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. After spending last summer searching for a
Opera, May 2021