Twitter has been a-flutter all night with reports of Latonia Moore’s stunning debut as Aida at the Met, replacing Violeta Urmana.
Nothing has appeared about it yet on 20th century mass media, and only one blog has, so far, acclaimed her live broadcast.
So here’s an instant I-was-there report from an overwhelmed Slipped Disc reader, Ann Smith:
I had tickets for the matinee of the last performance of this season’s Aida at the Met today. The title roles were to be sung by Stephanie Blythe (Amneris), Marcello Giordano (Radames), Violeta Urmana (Aida) and Lado Ataneli (Amonasro). However the program included a little piece of paper indicating that Urmana is ill and will be replaced by Latonia Moore in her Met debut!! I was a bit disappointed at the news of a rookie singing a powerful and demanding role.I had never heard her name before.
Aida appears in the first scene of the first act, so we met Ms. Moore very quickly. She appeared young and lovely and really nervous. But she quickly got into the role and amazed her audience with a powerful smooth and velvety voice. She melded in with the cast, always in tune with the conductor and the orchestra (unlike one of her colleagues) and enchanted the public with her singing as well as her charisma and acting. The opera had 2 long intermissions ( a good 40-45 minutes due to backstage equipment trouble), which allowed enough time to chat with your neighbors.
Everyone was in awe of this young soprano and she was greeted with loud cheers and applause at the end of every act. At the end of the opera she received a loud standing ovation with a few flowers thrown at her. She was visibly moved, alternating between pumping her fists in sheer joy and triumph and taking deep tearful bows. It was really exciting to witness her unplanned debut. She was clearly very prepared to jump in and by all appearances, she took great advantage of the opportunity that came her way.
I should add that the opera was most enjoyable. The sets were magnificent: great Egypt paraphernalia in impeccable taste, with lithe dancing, prietesses, incense, temples, gold, a few real horses on stage, awesome male dancers (have I already said that) and of course a brilliant Stephanie Blythe. Gosh can the woman sing. It all seems so effortless and so gorgeous and so beautifully resonant. I was intimidated by her presence as a mere audience member. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be debut-ing next to her. A consummate artist, she was very gracious to Ms. Moore, congratulating her on stage and ‘directing” the applause her way.
Slipped Disc heard and met Latonia once, ten years ago when, as an extremely young award-winner, she sang in a DG recording of Mahler’s second symphony with the Vienna philharmonic, conducted by Gilbert Kaplan. The voice, already powerful, was rather inflexible but she took so quickly to guidance and instruction that intelligence was never in doubt, and the charm was irresistible.
Since then, she has sung Mimi is Dresden, Liu at Covent Garden and Aida, unhappily to all appearances, in Hamburg.
A big future beckons for Latonia. A fan website has just been opened.
Here’s a a taste of her Aida in an inadequate concert performance, three years ago.
UPDATE: 24 hours behind the 21st century, the New York Times has published a sour little review of Latonia’s debut. Reading between the lines, we don’t get the impression that the critic, Tommasini, was present at the performance but, rather, that he watched a broadcast. He really should have specified. Many who were there (and some have commented below) will regard the review as a snooty piece of hackery.
SECOND UPDATE: We have since been assured that Tommasini was indeed in the house for the performance. Very glad to hear it and we apologise if his amour-propre was in any way impugned.