‘Maometto II’ is spot on

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By Melissa Riedel-Espinoza

In his program notes, Philip Gossett refers to Rossini’s “Maometto II” as “one of the greatest serious operas written during the 19th century.” After having seen the Santa Fe Opera’s performance Saturday, one is inclined to believe him.
From start to finish, this opera is a masterpiece, designed to show off a group of glorious voices, well-written choruses and, of course, the characteristic Rossini overture.
From the conductor to the orchestra, to the singers, to the staging and costumes, this production gets everything right and shows the incredible attention to detail an audience expects from the SFO.
Anna, Rossini’s heroine, is a complex character. She loves a man, her country and her father. She’s been lied to and feels abandoned.
She has to make a big decision. Rather than following her heart, she stays loyal to her family and her people, leading to the inevitable dramatic opera ending. Leah Crocetto is a miraculous Anna. She possesses a vibrant voice with flexibility and a fullness that is unexpected in a person of her age, along with being a beautiful performer to watch.
Crocetto sings complex passages with ease and grace, never leaving the audience to wonder if her voice will give out. Throughout this lengthy opera, Crocetto’s energy doesn’t diminish in the slightest.  
Bruce Sledge sings the role of Paolo Erisso, Anna’s father and the leader of the Venetians. Sledge is a great fit for “Maometto,” as well.
He navigates the stage easily with an appropriate air of command, while singing very difficult passages without making a single mistake.
His voice is resonant and full, and his diction is so clear that the audience will hear every single word he’s singing. Even if the audience doesn’t know Italian, this detail shows the level of craftsmanship going into this production.
Patricia Bardon does a wonderful job with the role of Calbo, a Venetian general and admirer of Anna. Trouser roles can be tricky and Bardon navigates this one with style, possessing a pleasant, dark mezzo voice that is an especially good blend with Crocetto’s brilliant soprano.  
Maometto the second, a Turkish sultan out to conquer the Venetians, is played magnificently by Luca Pisaroni.
With a lush voice and an intense stage presence, Pisaroni is a perfect match for Crocetto. The chemistry between the two is outstanding and their voices are yet another sublime fit. In fact, there aren’t any voices in this cast that don’t blend well with the others.
Although this is a gorgeous piece, with lovely music and a cast that appears to be super-human, there is one possible drawback: The opera is almost three-and-a-half hours long, with just one intermission.
Taking that into consideration, it is three-and-a-half hours of some of the finest singing an audience may ever get the opportunity to hear.
It might not be a good choice for children or people who may need to leave the theater frequently, otherwise, it is definitely not to be missed.