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Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, February 2018

Keith Phares, who created Elmer Gantry, sings Hurstwood with charisma. He radiates hospitality in his rousing first number and shines in a pitiably ironic Act II piece. Mezzo Ariana Zabala, as Carrie, shows remarkable vocal and dramatic versatility. She’s exuberant during her fleeting scenes of happiness with Phares and heartbreaking in the Act II duet in which they both read Carrie’s letter announcing that she’s leaving him.

Ashley Puenner is sympathetic and remarkably unshrewish as Hurstwood’s suspicious and socially conscious wife. Alisa Suzanne Jordheim, as Carrie’s fellow working actress Lola, sounds glorious with Zabala in the flashy, giddy duet sequence during which they read each other love letters from their fans. Ariana Douglas, as the socialite Mrs. Vance, delivers in grand style a showpiece aria that demonstrates how Carrie and Hurstwood have been welcomed into New York’s elite circles. Matt Morgan, possessed of a buoyant tenor, is uplifting as Drouet.

Aldridge composes in a conservative, tonal language, but he knows how to deploy dissonance for dramatic purposes. He is a deft storyteller with a keen sense of the theatrical and a knack for applying the right style to Garfein’s mostly rhyming libretto. That, along with the luxuriant playing by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under William Boggs and the considerable contributions by the Florentine Opera Chorus, is more than enough for a thoroughly successful new opera. © 2018 Opera News Read complete review




Elliot Fisch
American Record Guide, January 2018

The performance is exceptional. The two major characters, Sister Carrie and George Hurstwood, are excellently cast. Adriana Zabala as Carrie has a dark-sounding mezzo that adds gravity to the story, and her singing and acting skills are faultless. Keith Phares as George Hurstwood is simply magnificent. His singing and acting is solid at the beginning of the show and slowly becomes more desperate as he loses his sanity. It is a truly moving performance. All the other performers and the Milwaukee symphony are superb and assist the leads in making a compelling opera. © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, November 2017

The Naxos performance preserves the excitement of the original production. William Boggs leads the excellent Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a vibrant reading of the score. The principal singers—mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala (as Carrie), baritone Keith Phares (Hurstwood), tenor Matt Morgan (Drouet), soprano Alisa Suzanne Jordheim (Lola) and bass-baritone Stephen Cunningham (Abdul/Captain)—set high standards for future casts. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Michael Schulman
The WholeNote, October 2017

Naxos describes Aldridge’s two-and-a-half-hour score as “richly melodic and unapologetically tonal.” Drawing upon the energy and bright colours of Broadway musicals (although a darker palette would have been more appropriate), Sister Carrie succeeds as very accessible, highly theatrical entertainment. © 2017 The WholeNote Read complete review




Infodad.com, October 2017

Adriana Zabala makes a fine Carrie in sympathetic-but-doomed-heroine mode (although she is not “doomed” in the manner of other opera characters of the time). Zabala sings a considerable amount of Baroque music, and it shows in the ease with which she handles the vocal demands of her part. Keith Phares as her lover, George Hurstwood, has a more-dramatic (actually more-melodramatic) role that requires him to journey from success to despair and finally desperation. Phares makes the overdone, overdrawn character believable with a fine, warm voice and a sense of true involvement in the drama. Carrie’s earlier lover, Drouet, is nicely if a bit blandly sung by Matt Morgan; and the showgirl Lola gets a fine coloratura-soprano turn from Alisa Suzanne Jordheim. Other singers also handle their roles aptly, and William Boggs leads the production—including a very-fine-sounding Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra—with a sure hand and strong sense of pacing. © 2017 Infodad.com Read complete review




Michael Quinn
Classical Ear, October 2017

Adriana Zabala puts her warm, mellow mezzo to good use as the eponymous Carrie—whose fortunes are very much on the up—with the characterful baritone of Keith Phares both incisive and subtle as George, the luckless love interest on the way down and out. Committed support, too, from the Milwaukee Symphony under William Boggs. © 2017 Classical Ear Read complete review



Records International, October 2017

Aldridge’s opera is a distinguished entry in the canon of totally accessible, unabashedly tonal modern American operas epitomised by the works of Carlisle Floyd and encompassing those of Jake Heggie, Mark Adamo, Dominick Argento and a good number of others. Based on Theodore Dreiser’s famous (at the time of publication, notorious, for failing to be sufficiently censorious of the eponymous young woman, upwardly mobile at the expense of her male lovers) novel, this is an ideal operatic subject, character-driven with a cast of strongly delineated principals and the potential for a narrative expressed through a succession of arias and ensemble pieces. The composer’s melodic gift is never in doubt in the emotionally compelling arias and duets given to the ascendent Carrie and the relentlessly self-destructive Hurstwood, and the work’s drama is conveyed through Herschel Garfein’s expertly paced libretto and Aldridge’s original and richly orchestrated neo-romantic score. © 2017 Records International



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2017

Premiered and recorded last October, Robert Aldrige’s Sister Carrie is obviously one of the most important additions to America’s present day operatic repertoire. Six years ago I welcomed the recording of his opera, Elmer Gantry, describing its influences as coming from the era of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, and stylistically owing much to the verismo operas of Puccini.  The music is purely tonal and traditionally consists of solo arias, duets and ensembles, it’s general tenure remaining in the world of mainstream popular opera. Based on the novel by Theodore Dreiser, the plot is too complex to detail here, but it examines the need for women in the early Twentieth Century to use anything—sexual attractions being a good starting point—if they want to climb the social scale, not concerning themselves too much who they hurt on the way up. That person is here captured in the life of Carrie Meeber, her first few rungs up the ladder coming from Charlie Drouet and George Hurstwood who would do anything to capture her. She has a mind set on success on the stage, and slowly bankrupts Hurstwood, he, left with neither Carrie or money, committing suicide just at the point when she has become an operetta star. Aldridge’s big aria moments are clothed in catchy tunes, the orchestration used the paint the scene that we have reached as the story hurtles through years in a matter of minutes. There are seventeen scenes in the two acts, which must make staging difficult, and a very large cast—too much for the heading to this review—together with a chorus and orchestra. In the part of Carrie, the American mezzo, Adriana Zabala, sings with a dramatic intensity that is ideal for this ‘nothing will stop me’ girl who moves from a factory worker in Chicago to society life in New York. Keith Phares, as the ill-fated Hurstwood, has a warm baritone voice, and his two joined arias as the central point in the second act are deeply moving. As a foil, the light tenor of Matt Morgan makes an ideal Charlie Drouet, who has the good fortune of escaping her clutches having introduced her to the better life that money can buy. In the cameo role of the socialite, Mrs. Vance, Ariana Douglas, is outstanding, with Alisa Suzzane Jordheim as a vibrant actress, Lola Sterling. I have to add that the inclusion of a libretto with the release often comes to the rescue of the cast. The Milwaukee Symphony do all that is needed with conductor William Boggs at the helm. Presumably recorded ‘live’ at the opera’s premiere in Milwaukee last October, the balance between singers and orchestra is very well handled, the recording creating an effect of a small venue. There are no stage noises, and thankfully no audience applause during or at the end of acts. Can Naxos please continue this with other live performances? © 2017 David’s Review Corner





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