Annie Rosen will crush your soul

Annie Rosen in the 2016 Lyric Opera Rising Stars concert. Image courtesy of the artist’s website.

Annie Rosen in the 2016 Lyric Opera Rising Stars concert. Image courtesy of the artist’s website.

Annie Rosen is already more than an artist. Annie Rosen is a brand. Whenever I see her name in a cast list or as a soloist, I immediately pull out my calendar and check to see if I am available to attend. In the three years since I was first made aware of Rosen (heard in the various assignments and extracurricular performances as a Ryan Opera Center ensemble member), I have experienced her in a range of characters that would seem impossible for one singing actor to portray convincingly: lovable and frisky as Siébel, tender and frightened as Ascanius, camp as t*ts as Tisbe, or void of humanity like a Stepford Wife as Second Lady. Even more impactful were the glimpses of the future primadonna in concert settings such as the fierce final duet from Carmen she and Jesse Donner sang at the NATS Conference in July of 2016, or her detailed performance of Nico Muhly’s Two Songs with Grant Park Orchestra later that month  — undoubtedly introducing the majority of the audience to this work, and masterfully serving it up with as if it were already in the standard canon.

I have been lucky to be in the audience for more exclusive performances, such as her appearance on Beyond the Aria where she made the audience docile with a melting “Somewhere over the Rainbow” (with Craig Terry tickling the ivories), and went toe-to-toe with Christine Brewer in Arthur Sullivan’s jaunty, joust-y duet “Coming Home.” But one of the most indelible impressions of Rosen’s artistry has previously been praised on this blog, and remains an all-time best performance in 25+ years of concert-going. Yes, I am referring to that “soul-crushing” scene from Dialogues of the Carmelites with Jonathan Johnson at Lyric’s Rising Stars in Concert, March 26, 2016. If you were there, you also remember it. A lump forms in my throat just thinking of it.

I am ready to hear Annie Rosen’s lyric mezzo — with its secure upper register, mahogany timbre, even vibrato, and generous access to well-blended chest tones — as Nicklausse, because she has got that man-child, gender-bending thing down pat; as Bellini’s Romeo, because her’s is a real bel canto technique, even though she has the brains to give us all the new music (singers will understand that these are sometimes mutually exclusive skills); and as Mozart’s Sesto, because this is simply the best music ever written for that voice-type, and Rosen is technically and dramatically ready for it NOW.

Chicago Opera Theater has made wise casting decisions for this first season with Lidiya Yankovskaya as Music Director. The Scarlet Ibis opens this weekend with Annie Rosen as one of the principals — enough reason to endorse it. COT’s Vanguard Emerging Composer initiative also bears fruit this weekend with The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing — an opera about a queer genius, composed by an Asian American woman, with a cast that includes one of Chicago’s hardest working basses (who also happens to have a velvety smooth tone quality, and reliable musicality) Vince Wallace and tenor Jonas Hacker (who broke my heart in last season’s Fellow Travelers). Score many points for Chicago Opera Theater.

In non-COT-or-Annie-Rosen-related news, the excellent soprano Samantha Farmilant, who sings with clarity and authenticity,  is giving a Saturday afternoon recital with pianist Christina Giuca. Their program includes Granados’s “La Maja y el Ruiseñor” — an aria that more of you should be singing.