Following Don Carlos and Luisa Miller, “Trove Thursday” turns for the third of Verdi’s four Schiller adaptations to a recent I Masnadieri with risen stars Lisette Oropesa and Russell Thomas

Both Oropesa and Thomas had fine successes last season at the Met which served as awkward reminders that the company has lately been rather inhospitable to two of today’s best singers, both of whose careers began at the Met. Sure enough Oropesa and Thomas are again not scheduled next season but I have heard whispers that amends are being made at least to Thomas in future seasons.

Not necessarily identified with 18th century music, Oropesa—in my hearing at least—has excelled in that repertoire. Her sprightly Amor proved the first satisfying casting of that role in Mark Morris’s production of Orfeo ed Euridice while on two occasions she was an especially lovely Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She even excelled in that baroque shipwreck The Enchanted Island.

Having heard her in broadcasts of Giulio Cesare (and Serse) I’d be pleased if Oropesa was cast as Cleopatra in the Met’s rumored revival of Handel’s masterpiece opposite the sure-to-be-miscast Iestyn Davies. Barcelona will in any case hear her first Rodelinda in Claus Guth’s busy, puzzling recent production.

In more standard repertoire, her Met Gilda overcame the handicap of having to sacrifice herself for Vittorio Grigolo’s preening, hyperactive Duke while Oropesa’s Sophie in Werther and Nanetta in Falstaff radiated sweetness rather than the more usual cloying soubrette saccharine. A great recent success in Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden shone an ever harsher light on Olga Peretyatko-Mariotti’s local catastrophic mad Lucy this winter.

While Oropesa has enjoyed numerous past Met engagements, Thomas’s there have been so few I have had to go elsewhere to enjoy his evolving artistry—from Peter Sellars’s misbegotten Zaïde at the Mostly Mozart Festival to the New Jersey Symphony for a breathtakingly heroic Das Lied von der Erde.

His lustrous and sly Loge was the surprise revelation of the New York Philharmonic’s Das Rheingold last year while his stirring Calaf try-out in a third act of Turandot at Bard Summerscape left us wanting the entire thing. A particular highlight of that performance was his young son in the audience squealing in delight at the opening strains of “Nessun dorma”!

Following Masnadieri’s Carlo and both Foresto and Uldino in Attila at the Met, Thomas has recently been taking on more heroic Verdi roles including Stiffelio in Frankfurt and a sensitive, stricken Don Carlo I heard in DC several months ago.

Next month he performs Otello at the Hollywood Bowl with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic prior to his first staged Moors in Toronto next spring while he returns to Manrico in Il Trovatore in November for Lyric Opera of Chicago after his debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper in the same role. Meanwhile his most recent Met Verdi role was Ismaele in Nabucco.

Schiller’s celebrated dramas aren’t often done in the US although remarkably I did catch Die Räuber, his first play and the basis for Masnadieri, in German no less (!). While I was at the much-missed PepsiCo Summerfare in 1986 to see Peter Sellars’s newly-reminted and utterly devastating Così fan Tutte. I caught Alfred Kirchner’s thrilling Räuber brought to SUNY Purchase by the Bochum Festspielehaus.

Back in those days projected titles weren’t yet used locally for dramas so there were headphones through which someone gave us a simultaneous English translation. It was always disconcerting at first but I grew used to the scheme and would usually have one ear listening to the translation while leaving the other ear open to the actors’s voices.

I experienced many memorable theatrical events that way from the Grand Kabuki at the Met to A Doll’s House and Miss Julie in Swedish via Ingmar Bergman’s productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—by the way, Bergman’s unforgettable Hamlet with Peter Stormare also at BAM included no translation whatsoever! Broadway’s Mary Stuart (imported from London) in 2009 with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter was less hard work but equally vivid.

Last evening BAM presented Lev Dodin’s production of Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (the source for Verdi’s Luisa Miler) with the Maly Theater of St. Petersburg—in Russian of course but with titles.

Verdi: I Masnadieri

Washington Concert Opera
22 September 2013

Amalia: Lisette Oropesa
Carlo: Russell Thomas
Francesco: Scott Hendricks
Massimiliano: Hao Jiang Tian
Moser: Soloman Howard

Conductor: Anthony Walker

This recording was removed at the request of Washington Concert Opera.

Verdi’s final Schiller opera Giovanna d’Arco should arrive before the end of 2018.

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