When is local not local? Mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski lives in Santa Fe. So one could accurately describe her as a local singer. But make no mistake – here is a world-class talent that should be, and I daresay will be, singing on the biggest opera stages. So any opportunity to hear her locally should be seized upon.
Domanski is the kind of exceptional talent that comes along only rarely in a generation. A gorgeously bright mezzo tone, rock-solid in intonation with the ability to traverse the most treacherous coloratura with serene grace. What more could one want?
No better exhibition of her prodigious talent was with the New Mexico Philharmonic on Feb. 15 at St. John’s United Methodist Church. Listed as simply “Favorite Arias,” the program, I was pleased to see, was not the usual sung-to-death arias of Giacomo Puccini and Guiseppe Verdi, but rather music of, frankly, a much higher quality, W.A. Mozart and Christoph Willibald Gluck representing the pinnacle of Italian opera.
Matthew Greer led the Philharmonic, opening with the Overture to “La clemenza di Tito,” at one time second only in popularity to “Don Giovanni” among Mozart’s operas. Rarely performed today, it contains two dazzling arias for the mezzo-range voice. Domanski sang one aria each by the two lovers Vittelia and Sesto. Originally sung by a castrato, Sexto claims his love and utter devotion to Vittelia in the meltingly beautiful “Parto ma tu ben mio” (I go, but make peace with me), and in Vittelia’s aria she decries that she must submit herself to the emperor despite her love for Sesto, “Ecco il punto” (This is the time). Domanski’s radiant voice reflected love’s passionate ardor in all its lustrous colors and moods, balancing flaming emotion with impeccable artistry. Both arias featured florid obbligato clarinet parts masterfully executed by Lori Lovato in consummate duo with Domanski.
Also included were “Voi che sapete,” Cherubino’s aria from “The Marriage of Figaro,” full of adolescent ardor and yearning, and “Laudamus te,” the most intimate section of the “Great Mass.” The only deviation from this group of Mozart arias was Gluck’s tender “Oh del mo dolce ardor” (My gentle love), a classic aria of the period from his opera “Paris and Helen.”
There could not have been a more perfect program celebrating the many aspects of romantic love, not only to give us the full range of Domanski’s artistry singing both male and female characters, but also to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend.
After the break, Greer led the Philharmonic in a spirited rendition of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94. The “Surprise” Symphony features (to give away a 200-year-old joke) a loud chord coming out of nowhere after the first phrase of the Andante movement. Supposedly Haydn said he put it there because he liked to see the ladies jump. Ever the jokester Papa Haydn. A vigorously red-blooded Menuetto, boldly underscored by Douglas Cardwell’s tympani, was followed by a vibrant Finale.