NEW YORK (AP) -- Angela Meade, a rising star at the Metropolitan Opera, rose a notch higher as she stepped into one of the touchstone roles of the soprano repertory, Leonora in Verdi's "Il Trovatore."
Surprisingly, Meade's appearance Wednesday night was her only scheduled performance of the season, though she had sung the role last week subbing for an ailing Patricia Racette. Last season she created a stir in a revival of Verdi's lesser-known "Ernani," and led the second cast of Donizetti's "Anna Bolena."
The young American demonstrated once again that she has all the gifts to be an outstanding spinto soprano -- a category between the lighter lyric and the heavier dramatic voice. She filled the house with ample, gleaming tone, and rose to all the technical challenges of the role: Runs, trills and high pianissimos were executed with agility and confidence.
If she isn't the most riveting of performers dramatically, she gave an earnest and credible impersonation of Verdi's tragic heroine, who sacrifices her own life in a vain attempt to save her lover, Manrico, the troubadour of the title.
That role was taken by tenor Marco Berti, who matched Meade in volume but little else. For most of the evening, he sang with a distressing lack of subtlety, as if pounding out his notes with a blunt instrument.
A far more stylish performance came from baritone Alexey Markov as Manrico's rival, the Count di Luna. He deployed his dark, penetrating sound with considerable artistry, even if his serenade lacked ideal smoothness.
Then there was Stephanie Blythe as the demented gypsy, Azucena. It's one of Verdi's great roles for a fire-breathing mezzo-soprano, and it demands a singer who can sing with potency at both extremes of her register.
Blythe possesses one of today's unquestionably great voices, plush and seamless in its lowest reaches and capable of overwhelming power. But at this point in her career she seems more a contralto than a true mezzo, and whenever the vocal line rose above middle F -- as it does frequently -- she tended to go flat. To compensate, she made wholesale downward revisions in phrase after phrase, draining the role of much of its excitement.
As di Luna's captain, Ferrando, bass Christophoros Stamboglis made a strong impression with a firmly grounded, attractive sound.
The current revival of David McVicar's fast-moving, Goyaesque production had already been seen during the season's opening week, but with a different cast. The only holdover was conductor Daniele Callegari, who brought more energy and drive to the score than he had back in September.