The exceptional purity and power of young voices resounded at Friday’s “Adler Fellows in Concert: the Future Is Now” performance in Herbst Theatre. The very first of the 2022 Adler Fellows to sing, Canadian soprano Anne-Marie MacIntosh, realized the promise both in performance and accomplishment.
While all “graduates” of San Francisco Opera’s top-level training program are expected to star soon at major opera houses, MacIntosh had done that the night before. She appeared at the War Memorial as Eurydice in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, called shortly before the performance to replace an indisposed Meigui Zhang.
Adding to the acclaim received Thursday night, MacIntosh’s opening aria at the Friday recital, “Scoglio d’immota fronte” (Like a rock unmoved) from Handel’s Scipione, sounded like the clarion call of a famous diva at the beginning of her career.
Under the direction of San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim (who conducted the Opera Orchestra), SF Opera Center Artistic Director Carrie-Ann Matheson, and General Manager Markus Beam, the organization of the concert had two distinctions.
The program was almost completely free of warhorses and the usual fare of such concerts, and — unlike the “class system” of most opera houses, separating principal and comprimario roles — the Adlers took on various roles equally.
MacIntosh, for example, served as the mostly mute imperial object of Liu’s appeal as Esther Tonea poured her heart out in “Tanto amore segreto” (So much secret love) from Puccini’s Turandot (and one of the few usual offerings).
Stefan Egerstrom, a powerful bass from Minnesota, sang several minor supporting roles until a magnificent “Ich weiss ein wildes Geschlecht” (I know a wild, unholy race) from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre.
In the concert-closing ensemble from Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, Egerstrom and mezzo-soprano Gabrielle Beteag supported MacIntosh in yet another triumph, as Antonia singing “Tu ne chanteras plus” (You will not sing anymore).
Beteag appeared in several supporting roles, even a voiceless one (Emilia opposite Mikayla Sager’s splendid Desdemona in the “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s Otello), until her big moment came in a gripping performance of “Afraid, am I afraid?” from Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium.
Beteag was also hilarious as she and Egerstrom helped soprano Elisa Sunshine bring down the house as the irrepressible daughter of the regiment in “Le jour naissait dans le bocage” (The day was dawning in the grove) from Gaetano Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment.
More examples of the concert’s unusual offerings:
— “O blonde Cérès” from Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens, with tenor Victor Cardamone
— “Look! Through the port ... Farewell to ye, old Rights o’ Man” from Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, with baritone Timothy Murray and Egerstrom as Dansker
— Cardamone and tenor Edward Graves in a duet from Otello ... but Rossini’s, not Verdi’s
— Sunshine in another grand performance, of “Lulu’s Song” from Alban Berg’s Lulu
— From a Vincenzo Bellini rarity, Bianca e Fernando, a duet with Tonea and Sager
The artists concluding their fellowships with this concert are third-year Adler Fellows MacIntosh, Sunshine, Tonea, Murray, Egerstrom, and pianist/coach Andrew King.
Continuing in the program in 2023 as second-year Adlers are Sager, Beteag, Cardamone, Graves and pianist Marika Yasuda.
New Adler Fellows in 2023 are sopranos Arianna Rodriguez (Fairfax, Virginia) and Olivia Smith (Penticton, British Columbia, Canada), mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz (Oakland, California); tenor Moisés Salazar (Santa Ana, California), and bass-baritone Jongwon Han (Seoul, South Korea). Each was selected from the Merola Opera Program.
In addition to Yasuda, who will have her second Adler year, there will be a new pianist, Yang Lin from Shanghai, China