Ann Arbor Symphony offers superb Verdi, Debussy
Two widely divergent works proved a successful pairing Saturday night, courtesy of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, playing at the Michigan Theater.
The evening opened with Debussy’s impressionistic, three-part “La Mer,” which visited the moods of the sea from dawn to dusk. No Dramamine was needed to navigate these musical passages—it was smooth sailing all the way. I’ve always enjoyed the third movement for its sweeping changes in tone and volume—wind and waves—and the A2SO’s interpretation was spot on. The brass sounded especially bracing.
The program’s ambitious second half consisted of excerpts from Verdi’s enduringly popular opera “Rigoletto,” with singers Sarah Hibbard, Lauren Skuce, Vale Rideout and Thomas Hall recreating the opera’s essential roles, and narrator Stephen West mellifluously sketching out the bare bones of the story.
I was especially taken with Hibbard’s seemingly effortless rendition of Gilda’s familiar aria “Caro nome,” with its trilling high notes beautifully rendered. Rideout was absolutely perfect, exuding all the confidence you’d expect from a shady duke, especially performing “Questa o quella,” and his signature aria “La donna e mobile.”
Hall, as Rigoletto, offered an especially intense presence. His scenes with Gilda had genuine emotion, his “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata” perfectly capturing the pain of a father after his daughter has been abducted.
No disrespect to the orchestra, but I found myself so captivated by the singers and the story—even without such niceties as costumes and scenery—the music sometimes faded into the background. When my focus expanded back out to include the ensemble, I was able to appreciate more excellent orchestration under the steady hand of Maestro Arie Lipsky. Honesty, the A2SO never disappoints, and Saturday night was no exception.
All in all, it was a superb performance. Bravo to all involved.