The soprano Maria Valdes has already proven herself in more modern fare; she was a standout this past January in New York City Opera’s mariachi opera ‘Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.’ Here she was a first-rate singing actress and a perfectly charming Gilda.
Maria Valdes as Despina is crafty, shrewd and motivated to bring some color to her banal position in life. Her voice is strong, almost sly, which is emblematic of her character. She steals many scenes with her libidinous antics.
There was a similar vein of tender sentiment in her earlier appearance, opening the program with Samuel Barber’s memory piece “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.” With its lilting, cradle-like accompaniments and a misty prose-poetic text by James Agee, “Knoxville” is a work that always teeters close to bathos, but in a performance as pliant and sympathetic as Valdes and the orchestra gave it, the music has a way of sneaking around the listener’s resistance.
Maria Valdes sang the soprano arias beautifully, growing stronger as the evening progressed.
There was a heart-rending and emotionally transparent scene from Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” done by soprano Maria Valdes and bass-baritone Philippe Sly. Even before that, Valdes had stormed her way fearlessly through the expressive and technical challenges of Anne Truelove’s great Act 1 aria and cabaletta from Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress,” culminating in a beautiful and secure high C.
Among them were New Zealand tenor Pene Pati (Candide) and Atlanta, Georgia, soprano Maria Valdes (Cunegonde). The stage “couple,” who also closed the first half of the concert with a superbly sung scene from Massenet’s Manon, has major career written all over them...Her voice...is uncommonly beautiful as well as steady and sure.
Photo credit: Ken Howard
Valdes seems on her way to the otherworldly realm of stardom.
Maria Valdes who sang Mozart’s well known sacred work, Exsultate Jubilate, displayed impressive vocal flourishes and flexibility in this soprano showpiece. Her lovely sound, stunning trills, intervallic leaps and warm tone blended very well with the orchestral accompaniment.
But this “Cenerentola” might serve as an advertisement for the Adler Fellowship, with splendid contributions from baritone Efraín Solís as the Prince’s valet and stand-in Dandini, and from Maria Valdes and Zanda Svede — comically attuned, vocally resplendent — as the wicked stepsisters.
There were better showings... especially from Adler Fellow Maria Valdes, who stepped forward in the last act to give a radiant account of Barbarina’s brief but heartfelt aria.