Reviews ...

Melrose Symphony Orchestra Plays to Standing "O"

... Japanese soprano Takako Mizuno pleases audience in rare performance in Melrose 

Jackie Wattenberg

Melrose doesn't have an opera company, nor does a nearby town. So we seldom have a chance to hear an opera singer. Our new conductor of the Melrose Symphony, Yoichi Udagawa, brought us this rare opportunity Saturday evening with thr performance of Japanese soprano Takako Mizuno singing four popular,  difficult, beautiful arias.

With another "world Premiere" of a composition by Kenji Kikuchi, and the orchestra somehow with a more vibrant, better-than-ever sund, this had to be one of the most exciting evenings for the ever-supported MSO. And the full house -- it's always a full house for the MSO --responded with bursts of applause and standing ovations for the singer and the new musical work.

Takako Mizuno sang arias by Puccini, Mozart and Donizetti in a dramatic soprano quality of sonsiderable power that suddenly turned colatura and inspired applause even in the middle of an aria -- astonished at the scintillating sound of her high F in the Queen of the night aria from Mozart's "Magic Flute". She was astonishing.

Her voice has an assured, focused brilliance, dark full middle tone. Mizuno is fearless in reaching for notes above the staff and her voice reflects an intelligence and devotion to the music's meaning. The orchestra, with unflagging insistence from Udagawa, gave surprisingly sympathetic support, beautifully rising to the rapture of Puccini's "Un Bel Di," from Madame Butterfly, in covering the singer;s climactic high B flat.

The Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's "Magic Flute" is a difficult, demanding vocal exercise, but she accomplished the intricate runs with unhesitating accuracy, only a few notes losing their pretty quality. Another daunting song from Donizetti's "Lucia de Lammermoor" was executed flawlessly, and the Madame Butterfly aria held no problems in its glorious romantic appeal.

Mizuno opened her group with with the lovely, romantic-sounding O mio babbino caro from Puccini's comic opera "Gianni Schicci." Though it is a song of light-hearted wheedling to Schicci from his daughter, the melodic line is lovely and definitely romantic and the soprano performed it handsomely.

The singer showed only one little problem -- somewhat weak low tones. Sometimes when head tones won't extend to the low register, sopranos must use chest tones, which many famous opera singers turn to. She is returning to her native land, but performs in operas and recitals in many other countries. There was no doubt about the audience's
appreciation of her talents.

The premiere of "Prelude for Orchestra" by Kenji Kikuchi brought a bright freshness, slightly modern here and there in its sound. Its melodies skipped and hopped across the various choirs and ended in a happy forte climax. It seemed to be more interesting, more successful than the earlier heard work, and was fully applauded.

Schumann's Symphony No. 4 in D minor was given an energetic reading, rhythmically vital, often pulsing with impetus. Entrances and cutoffs were admirable, and the work's often restless nature was projected as well as great surges of abrupt crescendos and some furiouscello excitement. Untypically, this time Udagawa spurned applause between movements.

The MSO will never be the Boston Symphony, but Udagawa has definitely made a difference.

Originally published in
Republished in the Melrose Mirror with permission of the Melrose Free Press.

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