Operawire: Polenzani’s Fernand is a revelation
Polenzani’s first phrases are sung with tenderness and a sweet piano sound continuously increases with passion as he describes the newfound feeling that is erupting within him.
If Garanča’s Leonor is a tour de force, Polenzani’s Fernand is a revelation.
From the beginning, the tenor’s Fernand has a clear arc – that of an innocent man corrupted by society.
Upon his first entrance “Un ange, une femme inconnue,” there is an innocent air to him as he moves about with restraint, his face radiating with smiles. Polenzani’s first phrases are sung with tenderness and a sweet piano sound continuously increases with passion as he describes the newfound feeling that is erupting within him.
We continue feeling that innocence as Ines prepares him for his secret meeting with Leonor. He is pulled from one woman to the next in a blindfold, looking increasingly confused and uncomfortable. We can almost sense that this might be his first encounter with a woman.
As noted in the subsequent duet with Leonor, Polenzani’s Fernand is driven by his emotions, his singing ramping up the intensity with each line, climaxing in a high C.
As this Fernand grows even more transfixed by Leonor, the character starts to become more unhinged. His “Qui, ta voix m’inspire” is clearly inspired by angst and ardor with the voice beaming in its high range. Meanwhile, the middle range caresses with a gorgeous mezza voce.
In the ensuing trio in Act three, Polenzani’s innocence once again comes through as he sings with long lines connected closely with those of Mariusz Kwiecien. Their voices ring with lyrical phrases while Garanča has more jagged interpretation. But as Kwiecien’s line increases in dynamics, Polenzani face looks startled and overpowered.
In the Act three finale, when Fernand discovers Leonor’s relationship to Alphonse, Polenzani’s elegant performance and innocent traits turn unhinged. His refined singing takes on a rough quality that one might not expect of the tenor. Whereas his movement in the first two acts is steady and refined, here Polenzani moves about unpredictably bumping into chorus members and throwing Garanča’s Leonor to the floor. And yet, his technical precision and control remain.
In the fourth act, Polenzani’s Fernand is clearly a distressed and broken character. And yet, he sings better than ever. His “Ange si Pur” showcases the tenor’s polish and finesse, mixed with passionate phrases, singing with abandon. At one moment Polezani makes a beautiful diminuendo from a forte to a piano, expressing not only a gorgeous Bel Canto phrase but also the expressivity of his voice. And the climactic C sharp is delivered forte, showcasing the suffering of this Fernand. In the final scene with Leonor that rage and desperation return with Polenzani reverting to expressive and emotional singing and unhinged movements. But as he realizes Leonor is dying, Polenzani’s singing weakens and takes on a weeping quality that makes the tragedy all the more palpable.
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