Rhinegold Photo credit: Metropolitan Opera
Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja perform in the opulent Palatine Chapel of the Royal Palace of Caserta

Francis Muzzu

Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja – Live in Concert

11:20, 26th October 2020

Met Stars Live in Concert: Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja

Royal Palace of Caserta, Italy
Available to watch online until 6 November

On my one trip to the vast Royal Palace of Caserta I seemed to be the only person there, so I didn’t find it too startling to see soprano Diana Damrau, tenor Joseph Calleja and pianist Roberto Moreschi dwarfed by the grandeur of the Palatine Chapel – almost a case of three’s a crowd. The chapel is essentially a marble box; admittedly an incredibly glamorous one, but offering endless hard surfaces for the sound to bounce around. Credit to the sound engineers for calming the excessive reverberation as best they could.

Perhaps more surprising was the opening number, the Act I duet from Tosca. Calleja is a well-known Cavaradossi, but Damrau is not a Tosca and from this showing will never be: she simply doesn’t have the tonal amplitude the role demands. But she’s an intelligent artist and spirited actress, and negotiates her bright tones through the duet. She then comes to grief with ‘Vissi d’arte’, which highlights the negatives. Her tenor goes on to sail effortlessly through ‘E lucevan le stelle’. They then hit safer ground with duets from L’elisir and Carmen, Calleja with arias from Un ballo in maschera and Carmen again, Damrau with Semiramide and Gräfin Mariza, plus a few lollipops to end.

Damrau is generally in good form, tonally varied and engaging of presence. She looks a million dollars in an elegant black sheath dress with a series of stoles and shrugs. And I do mean a million dollars: check out those rocks! She galvanises the sometimes more stolid Calleja, who is also secure and treats us to some fine pianissimi. There is sometimes a buzz at the top of the voice in full throttle – I couldn’t tell whether it was a frog in the throat or if the sheer volume had overcome the engineering. Their voices blend well and Moreschi’s excellent playing is idiomatic throughout.

Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja Live in Concert is available until 6 November at 23:59 ET. Tickets cost $20

Watch Met general manager Peter Gelb interview Damrau and Calleja about the concert: metopera.org/discover/video

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