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René Barbera Credeasi, misera with high F 2013

René Barbera gave his North American professional debut recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 19. The concert opened San Diego Opera’s 2015-16 season.

Mr. Barbera started the concert with a piece by Rossini from La Gazza Ladra. This isn’t the most well-known of Rossini's operas, but it was an exciting start to the concert.

Let me stop right there and confess that I can’t do this. I can’t give a play by play of the concert and then try to insert some insightful observations. I can’t just give a rundown of the singer’s bio and where he will be singing next and then try to point toward the repertoire as an indicator of what is to come from this young singer, and then throw in a few words such as “shimmering” or “elegant.”

René Barbera blew me away. There was one theme for the entire concert: freedom.

The freedom in Barbera’s voice opened something within me as a human being. The beauty of his voice was obvious but the extra layer, the “something special,” was the freedom I felt from listening to him sing. That feeling of freedom was a direct result of the way Barbera sang.

The concert was full of potential pitfalls. I noticed that Una furtiva lagrima was scheduled near the end. I thought to myself, “We’ll know the truth about halfway through that tenor-shredding wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Barbera gently took the sheepskin off the wolf and gave it a pat on the head as it curled up at his feet and behaved like a trusted companion. The way he sang this aria was so tender and expressive that the obligatory fioritura at the end felt superfluous. Tradition dictates that it be included.

Throughout the concert I was overwhelmed by the freedom of Barbera’s voice.

The common comment would be, “Well, you know, if the voice wasn’t free there is no way he could make it. The tessitura of the repertoire coupled with the length of the concert — blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.”

Thanks for that. Freedom in a singer’s voice isn’t just about being able to sing a long time. It’s about the way I and the entire audience felt during the entire concert.

Freedom is the ultimate goal of any artistic endeavor. It’s the end game. Not beauty? Not truth?

Truth and beauty are the starting point. You need those to get into the game. Freedom, the unshackling of our minds and then our hearts, that’s the point we are trying to get to when we listen to or participate in creating music.

René Barbera’s voice is free. What else is there?

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