30th Anniversary Concert with Washington Concert Opera

September 20th, 2016

“On paper, it looked like the women would carry the evening, and Angela Meade certainly did not disappoint. Hers is an old-school voice: big and solid, with floating pianissimos that she can swell into fortes as she flows her sound down the scale like an irresistible force, as well as individual notes of pure beauty. In an evening that focused on bel canto — the style of early-19th-century Italian opera by Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini — Meade was a reminder that a powerhouse sound, as opposed to the lighter voices generally heard in this repertory these days, works just fine…Meade’s loose hair and large fabric wrap gave a slightly unhinged impression to go with the crazy characters she was singing.”

Washington Post, Anne Midgette

“The headliner was Angela Meade, a soprano of dramatic strength and natural musical skills. She opened with “O beau pays” from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, a punishing slow aria featuring miles of exposed, high pianissimo writing, followed by equally demanding fast runs. Meade was up to all the challenges.

In the cavatina of the Act II finale from Bellini’s Il Pirata, the soprano deployed a masterful crescendo on a high note from pianissimo to forte, as well as shimmering chromatic runs up and down the scale. Not only does the robust sound of Meade’s chest voice continue to grow, the top C at the end of the cabaletta was focused like a laser. Even finer still was a smooth but intense rendition of “Qui la voce sua soave” from Bellini’s I Puritani, accompanied by wistfully muted strings and winds in the orchestra. Meade caressed all of the rubato stops and starts in the fast section with poise, matched step for step by Walker at the podium.”

Washington Classical Review, Charles T. Downey

“Though it is more effective, musically and dramatically, in the context of the full opera than as a concert excerpt, Marguerite de Valois’s ‘O beau pays de la Touraine’ from Act Two of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots has long been a favorite concert and recital number for sopranos. As sung in Lisner Auditorium by native Washingtonian—the state, not the District—soprano Angela Meade, the aria and its effervescent cabaletta were unreservedly enjoyable. On the form that she exhibited throughout the concert, in fact, Meade might have sung the most insipid, banal pieces in the soprano repertory and convinced the audience that they were masterworks. The limpid tones that she devoted to Marguerite’s contemplation were spun like silk…Hearing Meade’s voice move through Meyerbeer’s music with such ease, it was impossible to banish the recollection that the sui generis Dame Joan Sutherland is virtually the only singer in recent memory to have completely conquered Marguerite’s music on a scale befitting Grand Opéra. Meade’s timbre is nothing like Sutherland’s, but there is something of the great Australian’s grandeur in Meade’s vocal deportment. There are also elements of the exhilarating fearlessness of Cristina Deutekom and Marisa Galvany in Meade’s singing. At her best, as she was on this evening, she inspires memories of the Mexican soprano Gilda Cruz-Romo, a Metropolitan Opera stalwart in Verdi and Puccini repertory whose fiery bel canto singing in rôles like Bellini’s Norma and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena—rôles that are cornerstones of Meade’s repertory—is too little appreciated. The operatic world is ever sorely in need of a true soprano drammatico d’agilità, and Meade’s singing confirmed her status as today’s preeminent candidate for that distinction.

Closing the first half of WCO’s concert with Pirata’s extended mad scene for Imogene, Meade managed the aria’s cantilena with impressive legato, but it was her singing of the cabaletta ‘Oh, sole! ti vela di tenebre oscure’ that rightfully earned her the audience’s vociferous bravos. Conjuring Callas with her pointed delivery of the words ‘palco funesto,’ with the difference of Meade’s vitriol having been aimed at the fateful scaffold of Felice Romani’s text rather than the manager’s box, her top C at the scene’s end may have rung the bells of the distant National Cathedral.

Meade also sampled I puritani, offering a beautifully-phrased journey through Elvira’s haunting Act Two mad scene. Her voicing of ‘O rendetemi la speme’ was impeccably poised, and she sang the sublime ‘Qui la voce sua soave mi chiamava’ mesmerizingly, her legato caressing Bellini’s melodies with an ardent lover’s hand. The essence of the text of effervescent cabaletta, ‘Vien, diletto, è in ciel la luna,’ was audible in Meade’s vocalism, her coloratura truly seeming to penetrate and scatter the clouds of madness like soft moonlight. She ascended to the traditional, interpolated top E♭ with a gossamer touch, musing rather than blaring, her movingly innocent Elvira seemingly untrusting of her own emotional stability. The breath control alone that Bellini’s music demands is impossible for many singers, but Meade sang the scene as though coached in it by the composer himself.

It was a pity that Donizetti and his librettist did not give Gennaro a stronger grasp as Meade’s Lucrezia tossed a plethora of monumental, firmly-anchored tones to him. Beguilingly naïve in Huguenots, incendiary in Pirata, and unsettlingly bittersweet in Puritani, Meade swelled her golden lungs with the air of tragedy in Lucrezia Borgia….Meade possesses the vocal amplitude that is ideally suited to the music and the character. Her chest register, never pushed or guttural, thundered with power that would have earned Dolora Zajick’s applause, but, vitally, the snarls were Donizetti’s and Lucrezia’s, not Angela Meade’s. If human hearts responded to the electricity of notes, the mighty top D with which Meade crowned the scene might have defibrillated the poisoned Gennaro, Orsini, and their comrades back to life. The energy discharged in Lisner Auditorium was staggering.”

Voix des Arts, Joseph A. Newsome