Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press
When last we left tenor James Valenti, it was March 2010 and he was singing the male lead in Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" with the Minnesota Opera. The Twin Cities had become something of a second home for the 6-foot-5, ruggedly handsome tenor from New Jersey, as he cut his professional teeth here in his early 20s as a Minnesota Opera resident artist and had returned for lead roles in Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" and Charles Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet."
But his career promptly skyrocketed when he left town that spring. He went straight to New York's Metropolitan Opera to sing the romantic lead in "La Traviata" with star soprano Angela Gheorghiu, a role that he'd already sung at Italy's storied La Scala. Then he joined a couple of superstars (Anna Netrebko and Thomas Hampson) for the same role with London's Royal Opera, where he also sang the male lead in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" and the title role in Gounod's "Faust."
However, he hasn't forgotten Minnesota, for Valenti returns to the Ordway Center stage tonight in the title role of Jules Massenet's "Werther." We caught up with him between rehearsals to ask about the difference between the Minnesota Opera and those big companies and being Werther.
Graydon Royce, Star Tribune
The camera loves them. James Valenti and Roxana Constantinescu, decked out in glamorous black duds, flashed their pearly whites and traded lines while shooting a commercial last week to promote "Werther," the new Minnesota Opera production that opens Saturday.
"Unrequited love," he begins.
"Passion," she answers.
"Ideals. ... Reality. ... 'Werther' is a love story. ... It's gorgeous music. ... And extraordinary voices. ... Come see us in 'Werther!'"
With tenor Valenti in the title role and Constantinescu as Charlotte, his "unrequited love" interest, the Minnesota Opera has turned up the heat, casting two singers who are gorgeous in voice as well as appearance. This is Valenti's third lead role in Minnesota since 2008. Constantinescu, who laughed off a casual joke in the studio about divas ("I'm just a mezzo"), returns after charming audiences as Cinderella in October 2010.
Star Tribune (Graydon Royce)
Passion for a woman brought Bernard Herrmann to Minneapolis in 1948. But when he was not courting Miss Lucy Anderson, Herrmann was spending long hours working on his other love -- the opera score for "Wuthering Heights." The famous film composer had mixed success with his paramours in Minneapolis. He and Anderson would marry. Herrmann and "Wuthering Heights" had a more complicated relationship.
Pioneer Press (Mary Ann Grossmann)
Imagine Wuthering Heights, a haunted place with towering walls and big windows that look out on England's wild Yorkshire moors. That's where Heathcliff and Catherine live out their tempestuous love in Minnesota Opera's new production of "Wuthering Heights" and the place to which Cathy's ghost returns.
City Pages (Brad Richason)
Don't be alarmed if the Twin Cities feels a little sinister of late; Bernard Herrmann is in town.