Opera fans, fear not. The future is here.
If the recent recital by Leah Crocetto and David Lomelí is any indication, there should be no shortage of Mimis or Rodolfos, Butterflies or Pinkertons, once Domingo and Netrebko, Fleming and Kaufmann have take their final bows. These two amazing young artists thrilled the audience at the sound-friendly, visually stunning Weill Hall at Sonoma State University on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a program of art songs and Puccini duets that would do any veteran proud.
Of course, although still up-and-comers, these two singers are not exactly novices. Crocetto was a heartbreaking Liù in San Francisco Opera’s 2012 “Turandot” and, more importantly, blew audiences and critics away in Santa Fe Opera’s production of Rossini’s rarely performed “Maometto II” that same year. A former Adler Fellow of the San Francisco Opera training program, she has, in the past, appeared in a number of smaller roles on the War Memorial Opera House stage.
Lomelí, also an Adler Fellow and as personable as he is talented (his asides between numbers had the audience alternately doubled over with laughter or in tears — more of that later), was the critically acclaimed Nemorino in New York City Opera’s (alas, now defunct) “Elixir of Love” and is set to make his Santa Fe, Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival debuts. In 2006 he won first place in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition in both the opera and zarzuela categories. So, why the time gap?
Cue the tears. Lomelí confessed that he was off the stage for a couple of years while suffering from a stomach ailment that threatened to cost him his voice. He came back, fortunately, because his warm tenor, with dark tones, would have been a loss to the world.
He began the program with three art songs, two by Tosti and one by Mascagni (“Cavalleria Rusticana”). After intermission, he honored his Mexican heritage with three songs from that country. Unabashedly sentimental — and in the case of the final “Vera Cruz” by the composer of “Granada” — just this side of hokey, all you needed was a margarita to complete the picture.
Crocetto was a little more adventurous in her choices, beginning with a set of Duparc songs that alternately let the French syllables float gently on the air and then, singing full out, announced that this is truly a big voice. After intermission she offered three songs by Rachmaninoff — dramatic, gorgeous music in an amazing performance.
But this was billed as an operatic recital and the big moments came at the end of the first half with Mimi and Rodolfo’s Act I scena from “La Bohème,” the one where he tells her he is a poor poet and she tells him she is a penniless seamstress and the next thing you know they are madly in love. By the time Lomelí and Crocetto strolled offstage singing “Amor, amor, amor” the audience was in love too — with them. The concert closed with the Act I love duet from “Madama Butterfly,” arguably the most beautiful in the operatic canon, and it brought down the house. Encores included a passionate zarzuela offering from Lomelí and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” from “Showboat,” belted out by Crocetto with some hot jazz licks from accompanist Mark Markham, who distinguished himself throughout this impressive program.