Critic's scrapbook: from Trieste to Florence

Trieste THE Teatro Comunale ``Giuseppe Verdi'' does some imaginative scheduling and their excellent production of Dmitri Shostakovich's highly controversial ``La Lady Macbeth del distretto di Mzensk'' (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) proved to be one of the most adventurous this year. Following the opera's premiere in 1926, an article in Pravda accused the composer of betraying the ``simplicity and concreteness of language'' and the work was therefore to be considered ``the negation of opera.''

Although it was revised in 1963 as ``Katerina Ismailova,'' the performance here provided an opportunity to judge the original. It's powerful drama and excellent music. The work has absolved itself!

Naples, Italy

THAT Montserrat Caball'e continues to rule the operatic stage as one of the reigning sopranos of our time was proved once again by her appearance here at Teatro San Carlo in the title role of Rossini's torturously difficult ``Semiramide.'' Her voice negotiated the florid, virtuoso passages with flute-like clarity and ease.

As Arsace, Commander of the Army, Kathleen Kuhlmann demonstrated good coloratura in this mezzo role. Rockwell Blake, as the Indian king Ideno, took a while to warm up, but then proved his excellent fioritura and outstanding vocal control. Altogether a memorable performance!

Florence, Italy

THE generous applause that greeted Samuel Ramey's first appearance on stage for his Maggio Musicale Fiorentino recital was evidence of the public's admiration for his artistry. Without peer in the classic, bel canto, and romantic bass roles, his superb musicianship and silken tone were witnessed throughout the concert, which ranged from such showy arias as Handel's ``S`i tra i ceppi'' from ``Berenice,'' to five delicate, introspective miniatures from the Schubert lieder repertory - ``Der Doppelg"anger'' being the most exquisite of the evening.

Ramey also did a group of Britten folk-song settings and closed the varied program with Charles Ives' catchy, tuneful, and rhythmic ``Circus Band.''

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