Role debut as Don José
San Francisco Examiner
Matthew Polenzani was both ardent and plush-voiced in his role debut, especially in a passionate, honeyed offering of his Act 2 Flower Song
“Matthew Polenzani was both ardent and plush-voiced in his role debut, especially in a passionate, honeyed offering of his Act 2 Flower Song.”
“Illinois lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani has the breath control one needs for a successful career performing Mozart’s operas, and for Bizet’s second most famous tenor role, Nadir.
The role of Don Jose is associated more with the vocally weightier spinto voice than the lyric voice, but Polenzani proved that one need not be a spinto to be an effective Don Jose.
Polenzani brought vocal subtlety and nuance to the aria La fleur due tu m’avais jetée, and the power one needs for the dramatic ferocity of the finale. He was an effective actor in his doomed relationship with Bridges’ Carmen and showed skill in his knife fight with Kyle Ketelsen’s Escamillo.”
“Matthew Polenzani, debuting in the role of José, was most convincing in the character’s lyrical moments. His fine, passionate tenor brought out this unlikely soldier’s desperate need for love, most memorably in the introspective flower song (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”). But since Polenzani’s rendition of José’s yearning was more convincing than his anger, it was hard to see the trajectory of his sudden, repeated eruptions of violence.”
“Matthew Polenzani’s first go at Don José was an unalloyed success. His sleek tenor and commitment to sketching the lovesick Army corporal with extra dimensions paid dividends in every scene. He played the character as ‘game for anything’ — but clearly in over his head.”
“Remarkable for a lyric tenor in great demand for over two decades, Matthew Polenzani performs his role debut as Don José. He suits the part well, demonstrating pleasant vibrato and excellent control over dynamics. He particularly caresses and then builds passion in “La fleur que tu m’avais jettée” (The flower that you threw to me), exhibiting to Carmen the dried flower from her that he had saved as a symbol of his love.”
“Tenor Matthew Polenzani portrayed a simple, smitten-with-pure-love soldier. His light lyric voice easily avoided the treacheries of the role for heavier voices, voices that have easier potential to personify the more usual sexually charged love Jose has for Carmen. As it was it seemed that this Jose’s love for Carmen was as pure as his love for his dying mother.”
“Polenzani offered a well-considered, attractively sung Don José—the first of his career. The American tenor is best known for Italian roles, although San Francisco opera lovers are still talking about his breakout performance in the title role of Les Contes d’Hoffmann in this house in 2013. Polenzani delivered the part of the conflicted corporal with vocal strength and elegant French phrasing. From his first appearance, sitting at a table filling out forms, he made the journey from awkwardly recessive soldier to impassioned lover and, finally, enraged killer, sounding richly expressive throughout; his Act II Flower Song, ardently phrased, was the evening’s eloquent high point.”