Rady Shell Opening Night
Opera singer Ryan Speedo Green proved a very important point during his performance on the opening night of San Diego’s new Rady Shell on August 7. Mr. Green proved that opera, when done well, appeals to a broad audience.
Green might have received the largest ovation on an evening that also featured cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Jean Yves Thibaudet. Why is this significant?
Believe it or not, there isn’t that much crossover between the symphonic crowd and the operatic crowd. There are a few who enjoy both art forms, but most connoisseurs fall into one camp or the other. Mr. Green wasn’t performing for what could be considered his audience, but he brought down the house all the same.
Make no mistake, Ryan Speedo Green is an opera singer. His larynx is low, his mouth is open and the dark fury of sound that issues forth is 100% opera singing.
When opera is done well, anyone can love it. The problem is that there are about 19 singers who can do it well.
We’ve been to several productions at The Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, and San Francisco Opera. I can count on one hand the number of singers who could truly sing opera at those venerable houses.
In the 20-plus years we were with San Diego Opera there were hundreds of principal singers but only a few that brought the full operatic experience. Let’s take a look at three of them.
During a production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, we were all impressed with the voice of the baritone singing Daland. Then Robert Hale showed up to sing the role of the Dutchman and we immediately realized that this was something completely different. Robert Hale was in his 70s at the time and was still singing at an incredible level.
In 2014 Stephanie Blythe sang the role of Ulrica in Verdi’s A Masked Ball in 2014. As soon as she opened her mouth, it was clear that this was a force of nature. Her voice engulfed the whole of the San Diego Civic Theater and took no prisoners.
Ferruccio Furlanetto was the best singer in every production he appeared in at San Diego Opera. In some productions, he was the only capable opera singer. In March of 1993, a group of us college students went to see Don Giovanni at San Diego Opera. We were all in choir but none of us knew anything about operatic singing. However, it was clear to us that Furlanetto, in the role of Don Giovanni, was incredible while the rest of the cast were so-so.
Great opera singers are like great athletes. When you encounter them in the real world, as opposed to TV or recordings, it is obvious that they are not like the rest of us.
That’s what happened with Ryan Speedo Green. The audience was confronted with the reality of a full-fledged opera singer, and it was glorious, and they responded. For opera to thrive, we need more Ryan Speedo Greens.