Saturday, May 15, 2004

Pops, singing cop arouse emotions

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The most emotional moment of tenor Daniel Rodriguez' program with the Cincinnati Pops Friday night came when he sang "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.

"This is a lament," began the 39-year-old New York City police officer, whose voice symbolized hope after 9-11, when he sang at the televised Prayer for America. "It's a tribute to all the young boys and young girls who are across the sea fighting for freedom."

The singing policeman, who is on leave from the NYPD, made his Pops debut in a collection of spiritual songs, opera arias and Broadway tunes. With each, his delivery was genuine and direct, and he sang with an impressive display of power, passion and nuance.

By the end of the show, when he led a sing-along of "God Bless America," it was clear he had won the hearts of everyone in the hall.

Erich Kunzel was on the podium and a chorus of 350 surrounded the orchestra for the Pops' season-ending program in Music Hall.

The crowd was on its feet by Rodriguez' third song. He opened with "Ave Maria," followed by "I'll Walk with God" (from The Student Prince) and a wonderfully expressive "The Lord's Prayer." From his rich-hued lower register and ringing top notes, it seems he may have picked up some tips from his mentor and friend, superstar tenor Placido Domingo.

Between numbers, the policeman spoke softly with a boyish smile, explaining, for instance, that Domingo had advised him to "Sing what you love and love what you sing," as he launched into "Music of the Night" (Phantom of the Opera). His diction was superb; he communicated every word of "This is the Moment" (Jekyll and Hyde), adding power and decibels as he modulated upward, arms outstretched.

From the opera world, he nailed the difficult final cadenza in the aria, "La donna e mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto. Then he bravely tackled one of the most popular arias of the last decade, "Nessun dorma," from Puccini's Turandot, drawing cheers.

But the Brooklyn native, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, unleashed the most charm in "Jurame" ("Swear to Me"), sung in Spanish with equal parts flair and Latin sex appeal.

Between Rodriguez' numbers, the Pops and choristers performed three world premieres: newly discovered suites from epic film scores by Miklos Rozsa, to be recorded for Telarc. These cinematic scores are wonderful finds, with sweeping themes, wordless choruses and exotic orchestrations.

The choruses, which began wobbly but gained confidence, were testimony to the region's rich choral life. They included: Cincinnati Men's Chorus, MUSE, May Festival Youth Chorus, choruses from Winton Woods High School, School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University, Wilmington College and the College of Mount St. Joseph.


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