Teatro Real de Madrid 2021-22 review: Lisette Oropesa in Recital

Famed Diva Delivers Wondrous Performance of Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti Classics

By Mauricio Villa
(Credit: Javier del Real)

On the 30th of March the acclaimed American soprano Lisette Oropesa offered a solo recital at Madrid’s Teatro Real.

She presented an interesting program, mostly in French, of six rarely performed arias and two encores. Being a lirico leggera soprano, half of her arias kept her voice in the middle register and showcased little coloratura and high notes. This gave an idea of how her voice is developing into the lyrical repertoire. Her choice of arias indicated her vocal status, and it seems pretty clear that Oropesa is far more comfortable singing long legato melodies than extreme high notes. The orchestra and chorus of Teatro Real were guided by Italian conductor Corrado Rovaris.

Part 1

Oropesa opened the program with “Ils s’eloignent…Sombre forêt” from Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell.” This was Rossini’s last operatic composition. Oropesa showed her velvety dark timbre and long fiato singing in an aria which kept her voice mostly inside the stave, singing very fluid intervals from central F to high A flats and a ringing round B flat in the final cadenza.

The orchestra of Teatro Real performed the overture of Rossini’s “Le siege de Corinthe,” which gave the soprano eight minutes to rest before singing “L’heure fatale approche… Juste ciel” from the same opera. Once again the writing of this aria is very central and lacks the complicated coloratura that Rossini is famous for. As in the aria from “Guillaume Tell,”  this composition began with a short, central recitative and a slow movement. Oropesa navigated the lower and middle register easily, singing beautiful, long mezza voce lines and delivered the first high C of the night in the last line of the aria in a long fluid line resolving down.

The first part of the night ended with the Countess Adele aria “En proie à la trsitesse…Céleste providence” from Rossini’s “Le comte Ory.” This aria has the traditional structure of recitative, aria and cabaletta, and it is profusely ornamented. The tessitura is high, ascending consistently to B Flats in scales and roulades. But Oropesa appeared to rejoice in singing low notes, projecting the several low B flats where the melody is constantly resolving down in a full voice, though adding a dubious low B flat in the final cadenza,  which sounded plain, small and shaky. This final cadenza required two octave jumps from high B flat to low B flat. Although the soprano’s efforts to sing such an extreme range, especially for a light voice like hers, must be appreciated, it was clear that her lower register is not the best part of her voice. Despite the slow section of the aria being profusely ornamented it was in the fast scales of the cabaletta that the vocal fireworks appeared. Oropesa sang immaculate, clean scales with astonishing easiness, though she again resolved down into a low E flat in the cadenza between the repetition of the cabaletta, which made the cadenza sound poor. She made a few timid variations in the repetitions of the cabaletta and interpolated an E flat on the last scale. Oropesa also delivered a perfect staccato high C on the final bridge before ending in an E flat. For this she received her first ovation of the night. Her interpretation was cheerful and lively, making a contrast with the previously serious and melancholic arias.

Part 2

After a 25-minute intermission, the soprano opened the second part with “O ma mère, ma mère…qu’ici ta main glacée bénisse ton enfant,” a short aria from Donizetti’s “Les martyrs.” Oropesa showed once again her long legato singing and her round timbre, up to B flat.

She continued with “Lucie de Lammermoor,” the French version of Donizetti’s iconic opera, performing the entrance aria “Que n’avons nous des ailes.” This was a piece which Donizetti adapted from his previous work, “Rosmonda d’Inghilterra.” It is a bright piece, which, despite a slow section, has a lively cabaletta where the soprano could show her depurated coloratura technique, her clean attack of high Cs and Ds in staccato before delivering a ringing final high D.

The last piece of the concert, after the orchestra played the Overture from “La Favorite,” was “C’en donc fait… Par le rang… Salut à la France,” the second act aria from Donizetti’s  “La fille du regiment.” Oropesa sang with exquisite mezza voce, though somehow her voice did not reach pianissimi, losing its effectiveness in sustained sweet notes. Once again, Oropesa seemed more comfortable showing her lower register, as displayed in her loaded low C in her final cadenza before going up to B flat. Maybe this decision took its toll when, at the end of the cabaletta, the soprano could not hold the high E flat and resolved down quickly to A flat. Her variations in the cabaletta were very modest and she opted for  scales and legato jump intervals to high Cs, rather than the traditional staccato attack on the high notes.

Her first encore was “Robert, Robert, toi que j’aime,” from Meyerbeer’s “Robert le diable.” She was very emotional, and she delivered a mezza voce high C in the second verse and two D flats in forte in the third verse. She concluded the aria with a crescendo on a high C before resolving down to an F. It was disappointing that the soprano could not begin the note with a pianissimi sound to make the crescendo more effective: instead she went from mezza voce to forte.

Her second and final encore was Helena’s bolero from Verdi’s “Les Vepres Siciliennes,” which seemed an odd choice. Even if the short aria has plenty of coloratura, a high tessitura and two C sharps, Helena’s role was written for a spinto voice. While it is true that Oropesa’s voice is dark, it lacks the power needed for this piece. Her scales and trills were impeccable but she skipped the interpolated E natural which lighter voices use to conclude the aria, once again indicating that her top register was not secure.

Although her interpretation relied more on technique than emotion or the portrayal of the characters, Oropesa received a tremendous standing ovation from the audience of Teatro Real who were utterly impressed by her performance.


ReviewsStage Reviews