Crocetto gives memorable performance for hometown crowd

Back in 1996, a 16-year-old soprano named Leah Crocetto stepped onto the Dawson Auditorium stage as a contestant in the Adrian Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artists Competition.

Her piece was “Summertime,” from Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.”

Because I was covering the ASO even back then, I was there that day. And Crocetto, who by the way became a competition winner, blew me away.

Crocetto has gone on to become one of the opera world’s rising stars, singing across the country and internationally and last season making her Metropolitan Opera debut as Liu in “Turandot.”

And while over the years as her career has developed, she’s returned to Adrian time and again for ASO concerts of all sorts, Friday’s recital performance, on that same Dawson Auditorium stage where it all began, was on a whole different plane.

By any measure, Crocetto is a major young talent, with a supple, rich voice that more than holds its own all the way from the high notes to the lower register. And as her voice has matured, new roles — including the ones by which great sopranos throughout history have been defined, like the title role in “Tosca” (which, by the way, she’s singing this fall with the Pittsburgh Opera) — are opening up to her, so in a lot of ways the best may well be still to come.

Her recital, performed with pianist Mark Markham as her accompanist, was a nice cross-section of the repertoire, showcasing her vocal abilities in German, Russian and Italian as well as English.

For the classical fans in the audience, there were Strauss lieder, two sets of songs by Rachmaninov and Barber, and of course opera. The latter included stunning renditions of “Donde lieta usci” from “La Boheme,” Crocetto’s personal premiere of the showstopper aria from “Tosca,” “Vissi d’arte,” and, in a completely different vein, the more contemporary soprano staple “Ain’t it a Pretty Night” from “Susannah.”

About that “Vissi d’arte”: Given that Crocetto told the audience that singing the role of Tosca is a long-held dream soon to be realized, and that the aria itself has significance for her, it gave her performance a special emotional resonance, never mind the fact that she nailed it vocally.

Arlene Bachanov –