This review could be subtitled “The Reginald Smith, Jr. Evening.” The young baritone who won the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions treated the discerning Charlotte public to simply outstanding singing that almost literally brought the house down… including a non-intentional explosion of one of the theatrical lights right on top of him with glass fragments coming down in the middle of his fabulous rendition of “Di Provenza il mar, il suol” – he didn’t flinch. I’ve rarely seen such an ovation: patrons actually stood up in the middle of the performance to shout “bravo” after he was done, and I assume it was not just for his courage demonstrated by staying put when fragments of the equipment were showering down on him, but also because of his spectacular voice. Think of it: a standing ovation *during* the opera, not just at the end! As you can imagine, dear reader, I’ve seen countless Traviatas, and it’s been a while since I last saw such great baritone singing. Be very attentive to this young man. I anticipate a nice continuation of his career.

You can read his interview with Opera Lively by clicking here, together with those of the other two lead singers, Elizabeth Caballero and Sean Panikkar. Mr. Smith, Jr. collected by far the most applause by the public, and it was well-deserved.

Mr. Panikkar was also very appreciated by the audience for his beautiful tenor instrument. Ms. Caballero had good moments in the Act I coloratura parts and had a nice Act II.

There is definitely a bug going around that marred things a bit: I’ve contracted it and was sneezing enough to prevent me from attending the post-performance reception (I’m sure the artists wouldn’t be thrilled to see someone spreading a respiratory virus all over the place), and a gentleman seating behind me was coughing so hard and so often that it was difficult to listen to the music.

The Charlotte Symphony executed the overture and the prelude to Act III beautifully, with exquisite strings. The musicians had some trouble keeping in sync with the singers in Act I, which did sound a bit erratic (I had the impression that the issue came from the stage rather than the pit, including the chorus). Things improved in acts II and III (our excellent conductor Maestro James Meena must have taken corrective action).

The physical production was beautiful, with very lavish costumes, and sets that were visually enhanced by tastefully painted panels. Blocking was rather good, and the act II choreography was satisfactory. I liked the lighting design as well.

Charlotte was very full tonight with a number of simultaneous events plus Restaurant Week causing some traffic jams, and apparently patrons had trouble getting to the theater before curtain time, given that the show was sold out but several seats remained empty. Fortunately we were able to make it, and thus we got to enjoy the two most impressive elements of this good effort by Opera Carolina: the handsome physical production, and Mr. Smith Jr.’s wonderful singing.

Read the interview at Opera Lively’s website.