Caramoor Music Festival - Title role, Maria di Rohan
The Bel Canto training program at the Caramoor Festival must be doing something right, if one of its young artists can step in at the last moment to the demanding title role of a little-known Donizetti opera and emerge not just unscathed, but a real star.
...cover artist Jennifer Rowley had just two days and one rehearsal to figure out the vocal pacing and balance, along with the semi-staging of the three-act work, sung without scores. From the biting cry of "Rival! Se tu sapessi" that launches Maria's first cavatina, Rowley revealed a commanding soprano voice, richly colored, with an attractive thrust and full control of trills, roulades and vocal shadings. In addition, her powerful low notes balanced a resplendent top. The audience, prepared to support the understudy politely, seemed amazed at its good fortune, and as the evening progressed, Rowley's poise and authority deepened into a galvanizing vocal and musical portrayal...If all the understudies were as well prepared as Rowley, the future of bel canto singing is in good hands." - Judith Malafronte, Opera News, October Online Exclusive, 2010
"The show went on with Jennifer Rowley as her impressive replacement after just one rehearsal...Donizetti denied his heroine the final aria she might normally have been allotted... Still, Ms. Rowley had plenty of other opportunities to shine, as in "Cupa fatal mestizia," her poignantly rendered Act I aria. Throughout, she sang with a fluid, darkly rich voice and expressively conveyed Maria's anguish over her affair with Riccardo and her guilt for betraying her nice-guy husband." - Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times, July 26, 2010
"As to the main event - Maria di Rohan - as with the previous week's Norma we were treated to an electric performance. The intrepid cover, Jennifer Rowley, crowned herself with laurels. Her performance was simply stunning, doubly so given the limited rehearsal time she's rumored to have had. She has a gleaming, bright tone, an attractive vibrato (reminiscent of Opera Rara's early diva Janet Price); it's a voice with a lot of color, dark at the bottom, bright and gleaming at the top. Her coloratura, while not always perfectly articulated, was quite good and she has a very nice trill. Her dramatic ability was absolutely stellar - she made the heroine's plight completely believable without overacting." - Dan Foley, The Donizetti Society Journal No.111, October 2010
"The evening's unexpected visitor was the soprano who took on the title role as the Countess of Rohan, a noblewoman in the Parisian court of Louis XIII who is torn between love for the tenor and obligation to her baritone husband, Enrico.
When rising star Takesha Meshe Kizart became ill and canceled the day before the performance, her understudy, Jennifer Rowley, stepped in with just one rehearsal.
To say that the young singer from Ohio acquitted herself well would be severe understatement. Rowley proved fully equal to the demands of a role that requires both coloratura dexterity and dramatic power beyond the limits of a lyric soprano. She can sing with melting purity, but her voice also takes on an intriguing, dark-tinged color at times...
Perhaps most impressive of all, given the circumstances, was her involvement in the role dramatically and her ability in a concert performance to make the countess's somewhat implausible plight seem compelling.
At the end, her eyes brimmed with tears in response to the cheers from an audience that had filled the tented Venetian Theater despite oppressive heat and humidity." - Mike Silverman, The Washington Post (AP), July 25, 2010
"Last night the audience again braved the heat to hear the substitute Jennifer Rowley sing Maria for the first time. And she also triumphed. When she first made her appearance with the words "Stringe l'ora: M'udite" it was clear that this was going to be an exciting evening. She shortly followed with the beautiful "Cupa fatal mestizia" and there was no turning back. She exhibited both power and tenderness. Her high notes were clear and confident. Her cabaletta "Ben fu il giorno avventurato" was particularly exciting as was her Act III prayer (without the cabaletta)... Not surprisingly the crowd cheered her on throughout the evening, culminating in ecstatic applause." - Lewis M. Schneider, Musicweb International, July, 2010
"Jennifer Rowley... sang with only one rehearsal and deserved every bit of applause received and more for her exceptional and very moving work. Her voice is large and luscious, a truly important instrument wedded to wonderful interpretive powers. She is on the road to a great career with major debuts coming up." - Alexandra Zalska, Playbill Arts, July 30, 2010
"The severely-pressed Maria was miraculously sung by the cover, Jennifer Rowley, on two days notice... this was a thrilling chance, which Ms. Rowley seized with velveteen outpourings that delighted the already overheated crowd." - Richard Traubner, MusicalCriticism.com, July 31, 2010
"Jennifer Rowley sang with a handsomely textured and richly resonant soprano. She had the role securely in hand... Maria's prayer, Havvi un Dio, with English horn obbligato, was touchingly done." - George Loomis, The Classical Review, July 27, 2010