Dallas Opera’s “Heights of Passion” season has featured some extremely talented female leads. Beate Ritter and Nicole Car stole the show in The Marriage of Figaro and Deborah Voigt dominated as Salome. But the past two productions have been all about the men. Everest was led by the voices of Andrew Bidlack and Kevin Burdette, and though Mimi will always be the star of La bohéme, it was the men around her who most impressed.
In his Dallas Opera debut, Alexander Vinogradov (Colline) brought the audience to a raucous applause in after his Vecchia zimarra, senti “coat” aria. His rich bass voice helped to underline the true pathos of the moment and helped to sell the larger story of the small bohemian group’s true character. Jonathan Beyer returned to Dallas after his 2013 performance as Ping in Turandot. In Turandot, Beyer was the star of the famous Ping, Pang and Pong trio; and he was nearly the star in La bohéme as well. His powerful baritone never got lost in the rich score and his clear phrasing was like a beacon in the cacophonous second act.
Coming off of his Metropolitan Opera performance of the same role, Bryan Hymel has come into his own as Rodolfo. Hymel does a convincing job of portraying the changing character of Rodolfo in each of Puccini’s vignettes. His voice is a little higher centered than usual for the lyric tenor role, but Hymel has a warmth that allows the character to be as sorrowful as he claims while keeping an energy level on par with his less lovesick friends. His Che gelida manina aria as he falls in love with Mimi helped to set him above the fold of a strong cast.
Though the men may have stole the show, that shouldn’t take away from the remarkable performance by Ana María Martínez (Mimi). She held the audience in her hands in her Si. Mi chiamano Mimì introduction and nearly brought the house to tears in her final Te lo rammenti quando… aria. Not only did Martínez have the power to rise above the orchestra and her fellow singers — especially in the fantastic Dunque è proprio finita! and Addio, senza rancor quartet — her diction and spot on articulation left a lasting impression. The way she was able to perfectly phrase her lines helped to bring a remarkable amount of self-assuredness to the role.
A beloved classic was a perfect way to follow such a powerful work like Everest as anything other than such a well-known and as standard might have been a letdown. The grandiose staging and second-act spectacle will play extremely well next week during the Cowboys Stadium simulcast. The 2014-15 “Heights of Passion” Season has been a strong one, and La bohéme continues the momentum into the final production (Iolanta) next month.