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Angela Meade stars in Met’s “Ernani”, including Live in HD Feb 25

Soprano Angela Meade, the 2011 Richard Tucker Award winner, returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani, February 2-25, singing the role with which she made an unscheduled “star is born” professional debut at the Met in 2008 substituting for an ill colleague. Opera lovers worldwide can hear the rising young soprano when Ernani is beamed to cinemas worldwide on February 25 as part of the ever-popular “Met – Live in HD” series. Meade’s co-stars include Marcello Giordani, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, with Marco Armiliato leading the Met Opera Orchestra. Armiliato first conducted Meade at the Grand Finals Concert of the 2007 Met Opera National Council Auditions, a process chronicled in the documentary film The Audition.
Since that time, and less than four years after her professional debut on the Met’s stage, Angela Meade has become recognized as one of the outstanding vocalists of her generation. Last fall Meade followed Anna Netrebko’s run in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, singing the title role to great acclaim. “Angela Meade made a triumphant appearance in the Met’s Anna Bolena last night, largely fulfilling the high expectations that have surrounded her,” wrote critic Alex Ross. He noted that her singing was “electrifying, as pure a display of vocal power as I’ve heard at the Met in the past few years.”
Meade excels in the most demanding 19th-century bel canto repertoire, as well as in the operas of Verdi and Mozart. “Could Meade be the next great Verdian soprano?” queried critic Tim Smith, in his Baltimore Sun review following her performance in Verdi’s Requiem with the Baltimore Symphony last June. “She has a tremendously powerful and flexible dramatic voice,” concurred The Washingtonian. “Even at the loudest parts of the score, with the entire BSO at full bore, Meade’s voice sailed clearly over the fray, while she also had suave control of her voice at soft dynamics, shimmering in the stratosphere.”
Following her Met run in Ernani, Meade collaborates with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin for her Canadian debut in March, singing Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain. In May she appears for the first time with Deutsche Oper Berlin for a concert performance of Verdi’s I due Foscari.
In the brief conversation that follows, Meade discusses her upcoming Ernani at the Met.
A brief conversation with Angela Meade:
Q: Ernani is your very own first run at the Met, yes? No covering, no second cast.
AM: Yes! It’s weird and wonderful to go through the process of full rehearsals and coachings with everyone I’m going to be singing with, instead of being put in a costume and shoved onstage, so to speak. That was the case with my Ernani debut in 2008, the Countess in Marriage of Figaro, and Anna Bolena this past fall. It’s really hard to get to the depth of the character when you only do it once onstage. With Bolena, I felt the third performance was the best because I really had a chance to settle in. So it will be great to have the dress rehearsals and six performances for Ernani. What a luxury!
Q: You sing the role of Elvira. What is her character like?
AM: Normally a character in her situation, which is that of a victim and an unhappy lover, would have the personality traits of being weak and pathetic, but she’s not! Elvira knows what she wants, which is Ernani – and she does whatever she can to get him. She’s great to play. 
Q: How does the role fit your voice?
AM: A lot of it lies in the passaggio and higher, especially in the ensembles. Yet the tessitura drops in the Act IV trio finale. This is when Elvira becomes very forthcoming, shall we say, with her feelings towards her uncle. She’s in a screaming mode that Verdi sets in a declamatory middle voice that flies up to the top briefly and then back to middle voice. It’s how he shows she’s out of control at this point.
Q: Where does Ernani fall in Verdi’s output?
AM: It’s early, and it’s one of his first successes. It’s also the first that put the focus on the solo singers rather than the grand choruses as in Nabucco. Some people think the opera is third-rate Verdi, and yes, it’s early and not as developed; but there is a lot of great, accessible music in it, and many memorable tunes.
Q: Where are some of your favorite moments?
AM: I really like Acts I and IV, especially the last part of the Finale’s trio when I say, “Ferma!” Stop! My other favorite parts to sing are the aria, “Ernani involami” and the Act I duet with the baritone. It seems that a lot of the characters I portray in opera come in off the bat and sing their “grand scena.” And so it is in Ernani that this aria is the first thing I sing. What a way to start the night!
Q: Do you have a favorite recording of Ernani?
AM: It’s probably a three-way tie between the Gavazzeni version with Caballé, the Del Monaco and Cerquetti with Mitropoulos, and the Leona Mitchell and Pavarotti with Levine at the Met.
Q: It’s been a great year for you, including winning the 2011 Richard Tucker Award.
AM: I was totally shocked and surprised when they called me last spring. I have looked up to and admired so many of the people who have won the Tucker. Now to be in the same company with them feels pretty unreal. I think that’s the best part of it.
Q: You are also one of the singers featured in the documentary The Audition about the 2007 Met Opera National Council Auditions. What’s the impact of that film for you?
AM: As the Met’s Live in HD broadcasts are doing for opera, this movie is giving me more than a localized presence in New York. It opens up the opera world to everybody. You never realize how many people watch TV or go to the movies until people stop you on the street and say, “I saw you in The Audition!” We sometimes think this world is so insular, but it’s not, really.
Q: Finally, Ernani is not among Verdi’s best-known operas. Can you describe the plot in a nutshell, or perhaps in a tweet for Twitter?
AM: One tweet? It’s four acts long! I might be able to do it in two or three, and I challenge anyone to get this story down to 140 characters:
Bandit loves girl; Girl is pledged to Uncle. King abducts Girl & wants to be Emperor. Bandit captured as traitor; he’s really a nobleman. Girl begs mercy & King lets them marry. Uncle gives Bandit/Nobleman a dagger to kill himself. He honors pledge & does. That’s opera. #Ernaniplot
Metropolitan Opera presents Verdi’s Ernani
February 2–25, 2012
Performances: Feb 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 25 (Live in HD)
Angela Meade: Elvira
Roberto DeBiasio/Marcello Giordani: Ernani
Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Don Carlo
Ferruccio Furlanetto: Don Ruy Gomez de Silva
Marco Armiliato, conductor
Pier-Luigi Samaritani, production
Peter McClintock, stage director
Tickets and more information are available here.
Follow Angela Meade on Twitter
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© 21C Media Group, January 2012

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