…the two leads poured so much heart and intelligence into their performances that I left grateful for the experience.
For Ms. Rowley, this was a breakthrough. Originally an understudy for Patricia Racette, she took over when Ms. Racette pulled out in March, and on Tuesday, she sang with an even, radiant tone and effortless, chiffony top notes…at the heartbreaking ending, when Roxane discovers too late Cyrano’s selfless devotion, Ms. Rowley sang with an intensity of expression and a subtly embittered sound that suggested a singer of enormous gift and promise.
– Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times, May 3, 2017
Tuesday was a breakout night for the young American soprano Jennifer Rowley, who was enchanting as Roxane, overflowing with innocent exuberance. She brings to the role a voice of considerable weight, from which she can draw out an array of different colors–early on there was an enticing, smoky quality to her singing, as she fended off romantic suits from all the society men of Paris. Once alone on her balcony singing to her beloved Christian (or so she thought), she showed a cool, clear soprano with a penetrating top. From glowing debutante to soft-spoken widow, her arc was beautifully crafted.
– Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review, May 3, 2017
The Heart of the Production
While Alagna was the centerpiece of the entire production, the reason for its existence and for its overall success, one could argue that the night belonged to Jennifer Rowley as Roxane. Stepping in for Patricia Racette a few weeks before the start of rehearsals, the soprano’s presence in this role, which she was singing for the first time, was one of poise and profound knowledge. She doesn’t actually sing in the entire first act and yet Rowley, placed at the very center of the stage to start the opera, was already a major presence. As she watched the fight unfold, she expressed by the fascination at witnessing the action and fear for the combatants. We could already see that this was no ordinary girl, but one brimming with energy and passion. During her first meeting with Cyrano, Rowley played the coquette, smiling and throwing playful glances at him as she unveiled who she truly loved, her voice relaxed but gentle.
But she showcased a wittier edge as she turned down De Guiche, the soprano ensnaring the older gentleman with a mocking tone and flirtatious glances. When Christian made his failed advances on her, she shut him down with curt and brash phrasing, the building sound expressing her mounting frustration. But then she melted as Cyrano expressed his love for her, the sweet timbre coming to the fore. While Cyrano’s poetry takes center stage, Rowley made us feel Roxane’s wonder. At first, she stood on the balcony in a protective pose, but by the end, her eyes were closed, a massive smile consumed her face and her body ebbed with freedom.
Roxane’s big moment comes in the ensuing act when she appears to greet her lover and then expresses her love in a rapturous aria. Singing in subdued but gentle timbre, the soprano made a slow crescendo throughout the passage, climaxing in her affirmation that she would love Christian even if he was ugly. As the passage develops, the soprano is asked to ascend into the upper range repeatedly, mirroring the writing that Alfano imposes on Cyrano. Rowley was fearless throughout, her dramatic soprano showing its heft, its emotional intensity and its technical security throughout. The high notes burst out with exhilaration resulting in the audience exploding with enthusiasm.
During the final act, Rowley’s Roxane, clothed in a black dress, was far more subdued, the sprightly femme ready to risk it all in the previous acts, now restrained in both manner and vocal expression. But as with Cyrano, her youthful grace and tender singing reasserted itself as she had her moment of realization.
When Rowley came out to take her final bow, the audience thundered with approval. One month ago she had no idea she would be here. As she stood there, tears in her eyes, you couldn’t help but feel excited for her and the future she is poised to have at the world’s greatest stages.
– David Salazar, OperaWire, May 3, 2017
His gallantry continued even into the curtain calls, when Alagna gently pushed forward soprano Jennifer Rowley (Roxane) for an impromptu solo bow. She deserved every “brava” for her heartfelt and generous performance.
Though she is not a “natural” Roxane — she is a superb artist. Her clear, bright soprano blooms on top with a lovely shimmer, and she has one of the most expressive faces in the opera business today.
Rowley is in any case an attractive woman, but in the scene of Cyrano’s serenade, her rapturous face took on the goddess-like beauty of a Marion Cotillard.
– James Jorden, The Observer, May 3, 2017
As Roxanne, Jennifer Rowley, in what will hopefully be the first of many lead roles at the Met, dazzled. Her physically expressive performance conveyed details of character that reached the back rows of the house. Her French diction was excellent, as she and Alagna communicated with flair and immediacy, and her beaming soprano vibrated magnificently, of one piece from the bottom to the top.
– Brian Taylor, ZealNYC, May 14, 2017
Soprano Jennifer Rowley was a late addition to the cast, stepping in this spring to learn and sing Roxane. She proved a compelling heroine, beautiful and unattainable, genuine in her passion for Christian and painfully blind to Cyrano himself. She was absolutely magnificent in the balcony scene and on the battlefields in Act III, a scene that recalled La Navarraise in its uncompromising portrait of war.
– Paul J. Pelkonen, SuperConductor, May 5, 2017
Soprano Jennifer Rowley’s Roxane was a revelation. Excellent control gave her ascents an effortless quality, equally at home in the solo moments and ensembles.
– Paul du Quenoy, ConcertoNet, May 3, 2017
American soprano Jennifer Rowley makes a strong impression as Roxane and was especially moving in the last act.
– Barry Bassis, The Epoch Times, May 13, 2017