Zmolek, who grabbed our hearts last March as Violetta in “La Traviata”, is a vocal wonder. Pure delight flowed every time she sang. She also showed herself to be an excellent physical comedian. Now it can be said she has it all.
Two words: Annamarie Zmolek.
Okay, they’re not the easiest words to get your mouth around. But the soprano’s unforgettable portrayal of Violetta is reason in itself to see Opera Theatre of the Rockies’ production of “La Traviata” at the Pikes Peak Center.
Few operas rely so heavily on their leads, and Zmolek and Burcham amply repay the faith that artistic director Martile Rowland has placed in them. In a hall as large as the Pikes Peak Center, most singers struggle just to be heard, but Zmolek fills the hall with ease, her high notes floating into the balcony seemingly effortlessly. Her tone is golden, her sense of long line is impeccable, and there’s no strain from high “C” down. Dozens of details enliven her characterization, from the way she spits out “Etardi!” – “It’s too late!” – to her heart-piercing pianissimo at “Cosi alla misera” in Act 2, as she realizes what her fate is to be.
Zmolek’s Violetta is even more striking considering it’s her first time as one of opera’s greatest tragic heroines. She will only get better.
For upwards of fifteen years, one voice defined the art of the soprano in Pikes Peak Center. Through her many performances for the Colorado Opera Festival, Opera Theatre of the Rockies and the Colorado Springs Symphony and Philharmonic, Martile Rowland electrified this community time and time again. Although many fine performances have graced the Center’s stage since Martile announced her retirement as a solo singer, it is only now that her successor can be named: Annamarie Zmolek.
And this is hardly by accident. Annamarie, who is soon headed to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera for the Semi-Finals of the National Council Auditions, has been under the tutelage of Martile for over five years. But it was her two performances as Violetta in this past weekend’s La traviata for Opera Theatre of the Rockies that heralded in our new diva.
Here was the voice. It easily filled the hall and there was not a moment when it failed to please: beautiful, sweet lyric tone; tight but not too obtrusive of a vibrato; musical at all times. This would have been enough. But in addition, the audience received a superior theatrical performance. Annamarie took us all along with her. She was utterly believable bringing us the agony and ecstasy of the courtesan Violetta Valery. This would have been enough as well. But then there was the spiritual. The young soprano’s innate knowledge of how to control the energy on stage cannot be taught. This is a gift from beyond and she is greatly blessed by it; ergo are we!
Magical musical moments were the norm when she sang. It was stunning how Annamarie handled Violetta’s numerous unaccompanied entrances. But every diva needs stalwart support to realize her art. This leads to conductor Christopher Zemliauskas who transformed the always fine Opera Theatre Orchestra into a living being able to be in the moment with Annamarie and the cast.
Back where we started from, those two women, Annamarie Zmolek and producer Martile Rowland, deserve the highest praise that can be showered: Annamarie for giving us a performance never to be forgotten and a glimpse of a star whose ascent should be an artistic phenomenon and Martile for making sure that the stars are indeed shining brightly.
Opera Theatre invariably finds a way to put on a good show. Their performances are distinguished by excellent singing and acting. For “La Traviata,” Annamarie Zmolek gave us a Violetta worthy of any stage in the world. She’ll be back with the company next March as Rosalinda for “Die Fledermaus,” their 15th anniversary production.
Among Sondheim’s commenting quintet, Ashlyn Rust and Annamarie Zmolek fared best in projecting the requisite sophistication (and tricky words).
Soprano Annamarie Zmolek created a memorable and stunning nightingale. As the fable goes, when she’s put on display and caged, the nightingale can no longer sing, and so the court acquires a mechanical bird… In the end, the Emperor begins to die a smug and cocky death, and yet the nightingale and the maid valiantly return to vanquish death and revive him. It leads to an emotional, moving finale to a gloriously wacky work.
Annamarie Zmolek (Beggar Woman) brought a delightfully feral and energetic quality to her character.