Angela Meade and her New York future

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Angela Meade sings Norma. ()
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The reviews are in, and it seems clear that Angela Meade's performance of Norma at Caramoor on Saturday (which the singer previewed for us last week) will be a breakthrough in her career. The Associated Press, which has the good or bad ability to immediately blanket a singer's Google responses, headlined their review "Angela Meade conquers Norma." James Jorden in the Post called her performance a "miracle." Anthony Tommasini in the Times? "Stunning."

So it was a big, big night. Though I always think that Caramoor is going to be more full of opera connoisseurs than it really is—the woman behind me asked, five minutes into the piece, whether it was going to be all-orchestra the whole time—the audience responded loud and long to Meade. And she richly deserved it.

Meade can really, really sing Norma, but in this performance—a concert, to be fair—the emotions felt smaller-scale than the high tragedy Bellini and Romani intended. She scrunched her face up to connote "anger," did a little half-smirk when she was being "friendly," and closed her eyes and laid her arms across her chest to be "at peace." Meade, who in real life is pleasant and warm and normal, will need to make a huge temperamental leap on stage if she is going to be more than just an excellent singer singer. I can't wait to see how she blossoms as she gets to work with more world-class directors, who will, I hope, push her and broaden her.

As for Meade's New York future, she's scheduled to sing a few performances at the end of the run of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, which will open the Metropolitan Opera's 2011-12 season (it's a vehicle for Anna Netrebko). But she won't be the first-cast soprano at the Met until that spring—this is 2012 we're talking about—when she'll appear in Verdi's Ernani, the role of her surprise debut at the house in 2008.

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I think it's a wise decision to take things slow, and build up Meade's big-role repertoire in smaller houses and festivals. But it's frustrating that a singer in her youthful prime won't be appearing in the city at all next season (unless Renée Fleming cancels one of her Armida performances, which Meade will be covering).

Which reminds me: where was New York City Opera the past few years, as this phenomenally talented American singer was rising through the competition ranks? Ah, yes, I remember. City Opera was closed for two seasons! And even before that, someone reminded me, Glimmerglass Opera—which for a long time provided something of an out-of-town City Opera tryout—doesn't program much of the repertory at which Meade would excel. Well, George Steel, take a good look. Angela Meade is the kind of singer you should be building productions around.