Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Patrice Michaels



Soprano Patrice Michaels commands a pliant, luminous voice and a repertoire that stretches from Henry Purcell to Dominick Argento--she's one of only a handful of vocalists in town who've collected checks from both Music of the Baroque and contemporary chamber groups. Her current program, "The Divas of Mozart's Day," premieres on Sunday and will be recorded soon after for local label Cedille, which has already released ten Michaels CDs. She'll assume the personae of five historical singers--Katharina Cavalieri, Nancy Storace, Luisa Laschi-Mombelli, Adriana Ferrarese, and Louise Villeneuve--each of whom was in the prime of her career in Vienna in the 1780s. Mozart wrote the role of Constanze in The Abduction From the Seraglio for Cavalieri, making use of her agile coloratura, which was often used to indicate a character's nobility; he cast the English-born Storace as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, a part that drew heavily on her acting skill. Laschi-Mombelli, known for her full, limpid, and expressive voice, was the first to sing the Countess in Figaro; Ferrarese and Villeneuve were the first Fiordiligi and Dorabella, respectively, in Cosi fan tutte. In this recital Michaels will present a musical portrait of each of these women through recitatives and arias written for them, some of which aren't part of the operas' canonical scores and haven't been performed since the 18th century; in effect she'll be playing a series of double roles, not only singing Mozart heroines but also conveying the personalities of the women who originated the parts (several of Mozart's contemporaries who wrote for the same women, including Salieri, Martin y Soler, Cimarosa, and Righini, are represented on the program as well). Michaels will be accompanied by the Classical Arts Orchestra, an ad hoc period-instrument ensemble under the direction of Stephen Alltop; in some of the arias she'll be joined by bass-baritone Peter Van De Graaff. Northwestern University historian Thomas Bauman will provide commentary. Sunday, February 10, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 847-467-4000 or 847-491-5441.

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