Voigt, like Verdi, silenced the Coliseum

When rarely does an aria occur that allows a performer to fill the ears, the eyes and the soul with an exquisite recording. The wondrous wail of Deborah Voigt on Thursday night in The Met’s opening night production of “Eurydice” unspooled without malice, but somehow to the point of hurt.

Julian Crouch’s designs for the sea, trees and the underworld were stunningly immersive and subtle, giving the water-impregnated room of the Coliseum only the hint of a corpse. Venturing in, the curtain took a few minutes to materialize, and the audience plunged into the hour-long “The Wasps” aria to hear the ethereal Voigt.

It’s powerful to hear all the parts work together, but Thursday’s performance was a case of not enough. Voigt’s Grande Sprauge is the most emotionally rich, most ravishing opera aria in the canon. It’s a beauty of intonation and phrasing, and an example of the sort of perfect vocal theater Hollywood films couldn’t have scripted. The tragic love story in this drama of three people within a one-night stand with tragedy underpinned by erotic longing is practically Shakespearean.

But Voigt’s performance didn’t match the music, where she seems forced to belabor the scenery: Her “Salome” scene before the mother’s death was an exercise in method acting and a betrayal of the emotional bareness of this piece. Her duet with Peter Mattei for their final dance was suspended in the rhythm that made her scores best.

Voigt is not the greatest singer at The Met at the moment. She knows how to sing, but so many of these performances wear thin. Voigt had a bit more fun with Otto Klemperer’s “Ciel de verre” in “Macbeth” last season, and in a bit-bit performance of “Caruso” from “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” she appeared energized and sultry. The triumph of this Met season that captivated me in part because Voigt brought such a fine sparkle to the stage.

Andrew Staples was excellent in one of his best performances in years. The Telemachus in “Eurydice” and co-star of “Don Pasquale” is so expressive and locked in so deep at this stage of his career that he deserves a prime role in every opera. Thursday night he got the much requested “Salome” aria. He sewed his own coiled skirt with real scarlet vibrato and so could hear the howl of drunken lovelornness within the wail.

Another standout was Kennedie Lewis, a graduate student. Her powerful rendition of “Doktorsk Arnde,” toward the end of the Prologue, was heartbreakingly entrancing and perfectly realized.

Michele Wiles’s set design was first-rate and displayed a wealth of detail. It dove into the entire size of the Coliseum setting, creating immaculate and ethereal visuals. The final movement with Voigt and Mattei was sung with palpable desperation from those two, but together, they were workhorse material on Thursday night.

Laura Morera’s Eurydice will grow as the Met seasons go on. For the show’s final “Tristan,” she was wasted by Brandee Malto’s timidity in the direction of Kathleen Battle, who served as narrator for this play.

The Met’s “Eurydice” runs through May 26.

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