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MUSIC REVIEW : Peters Sings at Ambassador Auditorium

Having had to defer the opening of its Stars of Opera series twice because of artists’ cancellations, the Ambassador Auditorium series was finally able to swing into action Sunday night with a recital by soprano Roberta Peters. Since Peters has long been the soul of reliability, there were no hitches and no stumbling--just down-to-earth confidence.

Every listener was at liberty to calculate the lady’s age, but even with the program offering clues such as the fact that Peters has celebrated 35 consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, all guessing seemed to fall short of the mark. For the record, the singer is 57. One does not calculate the durability of a performer like Peters in terms of time.

At the beginning, however, the obligatory Scarlatti and Giordani numbers suffered far more than the permissible squeaks and roughness, not all of which had totally disappeared in a set of six Schubert songs. Peters was never a qualified lied singer but even so, “Heidenroslein” and “Du bist die Ruh’ ” charmed with a certain innocence and purity of tone.

Everything was in good shape for the big coloratura salvos that were the singer’s backup ammunition. The Shadow Song from Meyerbeer’s “Dinorah” went glibly and prettily, and “Caro nome” from “Rigoletto” would have stopped any second act anywhere. “Una voce poco fa” from “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” taxed the lower end of the Peters range, and “Addio del passato” from “La Traviata” was less than heartbreaking.

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It does not matter much in which language Peters sings; her tone and flexibility are always the basic aims, and the color and meaning of words does not greatly interest her. Therefore, she did honest but only partial justice to French songs by Saint-Saens, Duparc and Auber. The theater sense of selections from Lehar operettas was not strongly emphasized but the lilt was soon contagious.

The audience stormed for encores, and won such favorites as Bishop’s “Lo, Hear the Gentle Lark,” the Gavotte from “Mignon,” and “Carceleras” by Chapi.

David Shostac on occasion challenged the singer with limpid flute obligatos, and Yakov Kreizberg supplied murmurous piano accompaniments.


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