In filling the ranks of supporting characters, Piedmont Opera’s production tapped North Carolina’s bounteous lodes of native and adopted vocal talent. Fellows of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute of the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts made especially strong showings, led by soprano Kristin Schwecke, who sparred seductively with the Duca as the Contessa di Ceprano in Act One and returned in Act Three as a beguiling Maddalena. Schwecke delivered ‘Somiglia un Apollo, quel giovane, io l’amo, ei m’ama…riposi…nè più l’uccidiamo,’ Maddalena’s plea for Sparafucile to spare the Duca’s life, with alluring tone, lacking only complete solidity at the bottom of the line. The Duca’s courtiers were in this production a raucous lot who nonetheless preserved a measure of the decorum befitting a duke’s court. The Duca is a libertine, to be sure, but a married one, and there is nothing in the score to suggest that his Duchessa would suffer her household to be run both inwardly and outwardly like a bawdy establishment. Baritone Cody Monta’ sang Marullo with unstinting force complemented by the vivacity of tenor Simon Petersson’s depiction of Borsa. Recently acclaimed for his portrayal of the title rôle in Opera Wilmington’s production of Rigoletto, baritone Joshua Conyers was in Winston-Salem a Conte di Ceprano who could not be ignored. His garnet-hued voice hurled out every note that Verdi allocated to him with tonal focus and dramatic purpose: the Duca who would dare to toy with this Count’s Countess is an unscrupulous fool without the good sense to fear for his own safety. Soprano Jaclyn Surso was a model of good-natured perturbation as Giovanna, Gilda’s duenna, and Lindsay Mecher deployed her attractive mezzo-soprano impressively as the Duchessa’s page. Following his colleagues’ examples, bass Patrick Scully made the most of the usher’s brief contribution.
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