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Television Reviews : 'Un Ballo in Maschera'

December 26, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

In the service of a cause he believes in--the international vocal competition which bears his name--Luciano Pavarotti appears in a telecast of Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," Sunday at 1 p.m. on KCET Channel 28.

In this production, taped at a live performance by Opera Company of Philadelphia in April, 1986, the superstar tenor is surrounded by young international singers, most of them winners in the Opera Company of Philadelphia/Pavarotti competition.

The competent and well-paced performance, handsomely, sometimes touchingly, sung by the then-50-year old Pavarotti and routinely conducted by his longtime associate, Emerson Buckley, shows again that the world is still in short supply of genuine Verdi singers.

The lack is not only in voices of lustrous quality and musical achievement. Along with their vocal immaturity, all of these attractive young people demonstrate recurring problems with pitch, breath, Verdian style and dramatic consistency. The result is a performance that reaches only a provincial standard.

Rich costumes (by Richard St. Clair), strong lighting design (by Chenault Spence) and undistinctive but atmospheric sets (designed by John Conklin) add to the professionalism of the project. Sonja Frisell's staging is viable and without quirks. But a lack of inspired, high-energy singing keeps the excitement down.

Susan Marie Pierson (Amelia) looks appealing and handles herself confidently on the stage, but her musical performance is bland. Mark Rucker (Renato) offers a stock portrayal of the betrayed friend and husband and sometimes proves indefinite about which notes he is singing. Nuccia Focile is the hard-edged Oscar, Anita Berry the coarse Ulrica.

The Opera Company of Philadelphia chorus looks, moves and sounds amateurish.

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