The Opera Camerata of Washington should be commended for giving area audiences a chance to hear Donizetti's neglected opera "Maria di Rohan" in a first-rate concert version at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater Friday night. Under the baton of conductor Micaele Sparacino, and with an exceptionally strong cast, Donizetti's soaring melodies were served to the fullest extent.
Set in Paris during the reign of Louis XIII, this romantic tragedy is a story of the eternal triangle wit an overlay of political intrigue. The story revolved around Maria, who is secretly married to Enrico, Duke of Chevreuse. Unfortunately, Maria realizes she is still in love with Riccardo, Count of Chalais, and, if you know opera, you can guess that the situation will not resolve itself happily.
The Camerata soloists were well up to the challenges of the work. Soprano Marje Palmieri, as Maria, tenor Lucio Pax (Riccardo) and baritone Jason Stearns (Enrico) were as musically confident and secure as you could hope for, and they created some magical moments onstage. Palmieri, in her demanding role, acted as well as she sang. And she sang very well indeed, with her aria "Havvi un Dio che in sua clemenza" unquestionably one of the evening's highlights. Her beautiful, effortless tones were well matched by the rich timbre of Paz in their duet "Ecco l'ora!" Stearns showed off his acting talents and fine singing in his heartbreaking performance of "Bella e di so vespita," and he and Paz were especially effective in their duet.
The elegant mezzo soprano Kathryn Honan-Carter, in the trouser role of Armando di Gondi, sang beautifully with well crafted tones and good diction, although her lowest register was a bit shaky in "Son leggero..." In spite of that brief weakness, hers was one of the best voices on stage.
In their very brief appearances, the Camerata chorus was excellent, and the orchestra, with Sparacino's sure-handed conducting, played beautifully.