Second-cast principals deliver the goods in FGO’s “Masked Ball”

Jonathan Burton and Alexandra LoBianco star in the second cast of FGO’s “A Masked Ball.” Photo: Lorne Grandison

Florida Grand Opera’s second-cast performance of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at the Arsht Center introduced two new singers in the leading roles at Sunday’s matinee. Both gave impressive performances and blended well with the ensemble cast of this excellent production.

As King Gustavo Jonathan Burton displayed a heroic tenor with a burnished lower register. He took an act to warm up with some initial harshness at the top in his arias. Once he joined soprano Alexandra LoBianco (as Amelia) for the Act II duet, however, Burton’s bright tone and reserves of power struck sparks. His plangent, full-throated rendition of “Ma se m’è forza perditi” had real Italianate fervor and high intensity. Burton played the monarch in a lighter, happy-go-lucky manner, too benign to take threats on his life seriously. He sang the death scene at full voice as if the king had summoned all his strength in a final act of pardon and farewell.

The Florida-born LoBianco made a well regarded debut at the Vienna State Opera as Leonore in Fidelio in 2016 and has sung Wagnerian repertoire as well. Her large, dark voice has an exciting edge in the upper reaches. LoBianco repeatedly soared over the full orchestral and choral forces. She managed to capture Amelia’s desperate state, radiating real fear at the sight of the gallows. Her widely terraced dynamics and intensity turned both of Amelia’s arias into high wire displays of emotion, tottering on the brink of unhinged. She is a dramatic soprano of great promise.

Florida Grand Opera repeats Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) 8 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Arsht Center in Miami and 7:30 p.m. May 11 and 13 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Rafael Davila and Tamara Wilson sing Gustavo and Amelia on May 2, 6 and 11. fgo.org; 800-741-1010.

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