Vanessa Mannes

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Vanessa Mannes

Post by lennygoran » Sun May 07, 2017 7:45 pm

We enjoyed Vanessa when the we saw it at the NYCO. Regards, Len

Review: ‘Vanessa’ Returns, With a Dreamier Side


It’s not surprising that Mannes Opera’s new production of Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” focuses on the dreamier elements of the 1958 work. This is almost inevitable when student singers (here those of the Mannes School of Music) portray its tortured characters. And there is certainly a nostalgic element in the piece, which tells the story of a rich, beautiful woman who has spent 20 reclusive years clinging to the hope that the lover who left her will return.

Yet “Vanessa,” with a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, is also a Gothic family drama, a chilling story dominated by a delusional and fiercely controlling heroine. For years, the title character has covered all the mirrors in her country house to block out any sign of aging. She has raised her niece, Erika, like a daughter. Yet the fearful young Erika has over time become her aunt’s enabler. This darker side of “Vanessa” often dominates productions; the Mannes staging, presented at John Jay College, rarely confronted it.

The soprano Lauren Yokabaskas, who sang Vanessa on Friday, brought a melting voice and youthful radiance to the part. In the opening scene, Vanessa sends her servants into a tizzy of activity to prepare for what she thinks is the return of Anatol, her old lover. In fact, it’s that now-dead man’s son, also named Anatol, who shows up.

A fortune-hunter, Anatol is a cad who seduces (and impregnates) Erika the night he arrives, then shamelessly courts the smitten Vanessa. On Friday, you could almost believe that this Anatol (Ganson Salmon, a dashing lyric tenor) had some genuine feelings for Ms. Yokabaskas’s Vanessa mixed into his rapacious greed.

The Mannes production, an ambitious undertaking directed by Jay Lesenger, spoke well of the growth and success of the school’s opera program. It also spoke for “Vanessa,” a work that, despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for music, has still not secured the spot in the repertory it deserves.

At the time of its premiere, composers who wrote in complex modernist idioms and claimed the intellectual high ground dismissed “Vanessa” as hopelessly Neo-Romantic. That taint may have had some effect. Still, those pointless stylistic battles are long past, and Barber’s richly chromatic harmonic language, while moored to tonality, is alive with angst, dissonance and turbulence. The musically striking and dramatically trenchant qualities of “Vanessa” came through in the Mannes performance, with the conductor Joseph Colaneri leading this teeming, often difficult score.

The mezzo-soprano Wan Zhao brought a rich, penetrating voice to the distraught Erika. (Rosalind Elias, who created the role in 1958, was in the audience.) Also strong were Matthew Cossack, as the old family doctor, and Kimberly Hann as Vanessa’s ailing mother, who expresses disapproval of her daughter by grimly refusing to speak. ... ctionfront

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Re: Vanessa Mannes

Post by maestrob » Mon May 08, 2017 11:40 am


Vanessa is surely a masterpiece of American opera, as is Carlysle Floyd's "Susannah." If you want to hear how Rosalind Elias sounded in her role, do purchase the above recording with Mitropoulos at the helm and Eleanor Steber in the title role, recorded at the time of the Met's last production. There was also a TV broadcast of another production during the 1990's IIRC, but it doesn't seem to be currently available.

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