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30.3.05

La Freni: She's got it Maid! 

(published first at ionarts)


Mirella Freni as Jean of Arc

Last saturday, the Washington National Opera premiered The Maid of Orleans, one of Tchaikovsky's rarely heard operas. For those who do not think that the chance to hear an operatic rarity by a master of the genre is reason enough to purchase a ticket, the WNO put a woman on stage that no opera-lover can resist: Mirella Freni. The woman was considered one of the finest sopranos on stage and record before I was even born. After 50 years of performing - now at the tender age of seventy - she can still sing and, as the reviews show, impressively portray a seventeen-year old.

Ionarts will review tomorrow's performance and for all the works' shortcomings (T.L. Ponick's review in the Washington Times pretty much sums it up), it is an exciting opportunity we are not wont to miss. Since recordings are very difficult to come by (pirated copies of a 1960's Russian performance may float around and the officially available scrawny 1944 recording seems unavailable. A 1993 Bolshoi performance has found its way unto video, but isn't likely to be carried by your neighborhood record store, either), it is likely your first and only chance to hear the work which, although no Eugene Onegin, contains marvelous moments from the tune-smith Tchaikovsky.

And then there is still La Freni, perfectly adapt at playing it to the crowd to this day. Remaining performances take place on March 31st (7:30 PM), April 3rd (2 PM), 5th (7:30 PM), 8th (7:30 PM)and the 11th (7 PM).

Reviews: Tim Page, Washington Post, Bernard Holland, New York Times, T.L. Ponick, Washington Times, Clarke Bustard, Richmond Times-Dispatch

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