The Pearl Fishers / Lyric Opera of Chicago
John von Rhein
Polenzani made an ardent ... Nadir, the adventurer who returns to a Ceylonese village to learn that his old friend Zurga (Kwiecien) has been elected king."
… one cannot think of a tenor better equipped for this touchstone French lyric role than the Evanston-born Polenzani. He caressed the phrases of the Act 1 romance, in which a brief glimpse is all Nadir needs to reawaken his passion for the beautiful Leila, with a seemingly endless column of breath and elegantly tapered head-tones. This was the singer’s second starring role at Lyric this season. As with his Duke of Mantua (in Verdi’s “Rigoletto”), he made the part very much his own.”
John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
“The opera’s famous male-bonding duet, “Au fond du temple saint” comes early in the first act and set the standard for the vocal excellence of the afternoon. Polenzani’s hushed opening stanza and Kwiecień’s dark tone complemented each other beautifully; the rapt duet rose to a soaring, glorious climax with the two men receiving an extended ovation.
Polenzani had an especially impressive performance in his second Lyric appearance this fall, following his acclaimed Count in Rigoletto last month. The Illinois-born tenor rendered Nadir’s “Je crois entendre encore” as a dream-like soliloquy, the top final notes floated with feather-soft tenderness. Polenzani was also dramatically credible throughout even when the scenario takes some unlikely turns.”
Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review
Polenzani was a captivating Nadir, with a sweet, round sound, especially in his unforced navigation of his higher registers. The famous duet in the first act had a fresh, stylish fervor, and he enhanced the narrative by with effective gestures, plus a gradual increase in volume and tempo. In a similar way, his monologue in the temple (‘Je crois entendre encore’), as Nadir realizes that the veiled priestess is actually Leïla, was sensitive in gradually revealing the character’s convictions.
James L. Zychowicz – Seen and Heard International
Tenor Matthew Polenzani is a local favorite, and no wonder: he’s a native of Evanston, his career was launched via Lyric’s Ryan Center, and he’s a simply marvelous singer. He makes for a dashing Nadir and turns the young man’s contemplative love song about finding Leïla again (“Je crois entendre encore”) into a fascinating glimpse into the soul. Polenzani employs restraint and subtle coloring that glorifies the music and beautifully evokes his smoldering love.
M. L. Rantala – Hyde Park Herald
“Nadir’s first act aria Je crois entendre encore, with its luxuriously exotic harmonies and pianissimi high in the tenor range, should be a highlight of any “Pearl Fishers” performance. Polenzani provided such a highlight, with a richly expressive aria, whose pianissimi were stunningly beautiful.
For a previous review [Matthew Polenzani Triumphs in Pelly’s Take on “Tales of Hoffmann” – San Francisco Opera, June 5, 2013], I wrote that “Polenzani . . has grown into the great lyric roles of French and Italian opera that permit the tenor voice to soar”.
Polenzani’s Nadir is yet another example of a French opera role of which Polenzani exhibits total mastery. A renown interpreter of the Mozart roles that require intensive breath control [Polenzani and DiDonato Triumph as McVicar Illumines “La Clemenza di Tito” – Lyric Opera of Chicago, March 11, 2014], which Polenzani enlists for Je crois entendre encore, his soaring voice filled the Lyric auditorium for the tenor part of the famous duet Au fond du temple saint and much of Nadir’s vocal line.”
“Matthew Polenzani gave us a wonderfully dreamy ‘je crois entendre encore’ shading the tone ravishingly. The way he pulled the tone back on top, experimenting with the sound, was extremely impressive. Yet it was always entirely musical, never mannered. Nadir is a role that sits well for his high tenor and he caressed the language to colour the text in a remarkable way. Andrea Silvestrelli was a somewhat woolly and verbally indistinct Nourabad, but he still has stage presence to share. The fifty-two voices of the Lyric Opera Chorus displayed tight ensemble but blend was compromised by their positioning on stage. When singing off-stage, they made a warm, homogenous sound and their commitment throughout was never in doubt.”
“Over the years from his Mozartean beginnings, Matthew Polenzani’s tenor has noticeably gained in power without losing the ease of soaring phrase required for “Je crois entendre encore.” His Nadir, no pun intended, goes from strength to strength.”