The talented and attractive soprano Sabrina Cvilak magnificently sang and acted the part of the naïve, pure Desdemona. She has a confident, full-toned instrument with great focus and a remarkable suppleness, which she uses with intelligence and skill. Her gorgeous ascending phrases in Dio ti giocondi were liquid vocal manna. The eerie, chilling quality of her death scene was haunting and unforgettable. O Salce!, salce! (the Willow song) was extremely poignant, and the Ave Maria was angelic and dreamlike. This last act showed one of the soprano’s most appealing abilities: trancelike floating pianissimos and a diminuendo that tapered infinitesimally to a most delicate almost imperceptible release.
The surprise hits of the evening were bass Morris Robinson as Timur and soprano Sabina Cvilak as the hapless Liu. Mr. Robinson’s booming but well-articulated bass should plant him firmly in the Wagnerian firmament, where, indeed, he has ventured already. Miss Cvilak’s solo moments unveiled an emotionally complex instrument capable of integrating tone, mood and character in a nearly magical way.
There were near-empty stages, in fact, for some of the family scenes with Timur, the old blind wandering ruler (Morris Robinson), and Liu (Sabina Cvilak), the devoted slave girl who guides him partly out of love for his son, Calaf (Dario Volonté). This focus was all the more fitting since Robinson and Cvilak were the strongest singers of the evening, he stentorian, she with a muscular roundness to her soprano.