Voix des Arts: Best Artists of 2014

December 31st, 2014

Sarah Connolly, Ann Hallenberg, Heidi Melton, Michael Fabiano, Steven LaBrie, and David Pershall

“Those who lament the current state of Verdi baritone singing are certain to not yet have heard American baritone David Pershall. I made the acquaintance of his splendid voice with his surprisingly vibrant Manfredo in Montemezzi’s “L’amore dei tre re” [reviewed here], a Polskie Radio recording of a 2013 concert performance in Warsaw. From his first note, it was evident that this young man was not just a bar-raising Manfredo but, even more excitingly, one with the potential to rain down with biblical grandeur upon the drought in idiomatic Italian baritone singing. His Conte di Luna in Sarasota Opera’s Il trovatore was an early port of call in a journey through Verdi’s baritone rôles that is poised to restore to the Italian repertory the stylishness that has been been in danger of extinction since the glory days of Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes, and Giorgio Zancanaro. Like several of his most eminent predecessors in Verdi repertory, Mr. Pershall has built his technique upon a solid mastery of bel canto. In Opera Orchestra of New York’s June 2014 concert performance of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, he achieved with his singing of the Duke of Nottingham the extraordinary feat of holding his own opposite the legendary Mariella Devia on sparkling form. His Belcore in L’elisir d’amore at the Wiener Staatsoper exposed the informedly finicky Viennese to singing of a quality all too unfamiliar in the rôle: it was a start to a season that finds him singing Sharpless in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Sebastian in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest, in addition to covering several of the greatest baritone rôles in the Verdi and Wagner repertories. The 2015 – 2016 Season will take him to the Metropolitan Opera for La bohème and Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda: where he will take audiences with his awe-inspiring singing in the years ahead is one of the most spectacular questions in opera. Ringing in a new year should be an occasion for remembering the best of the past and reveling in hope for the future. This is precisely the spirit that David Pershall’s singing evokes”

Joseph Newsome