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Hernandez Shines In Homecoming Concert

Spokane Symphony with baritone Frank Hernandez Saturday at The Met

Frank Hernandez began his concert career here in Spokane. A large and enthusiastic audience gave the 26-year-old baritone a hearty “welcome home” Saturday. Hernandez, who had a warm, beautiful voice even in his student days here, demonstrated the kind of increased polish produced by a couple of years of singing professionally.

Hernandez sang four arias from a range of operatic roles that included the jealous Count in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” the arrogant soldier Belcore in Donizetti’s “Elixer of Love,” the hapless Riccardo in Bellini’s “I Puritani” and the haughty King of Castille in Donizetti’s “La Favorita.”

Saturday’s performance showed why Hernandez already has established a fine career at an age when most male singers are just beginning to hope for one. He has kept that caressing warmth in his voice and the natural stage presence that always has made him a pleasure to watch. His spoken introductions to the arias still have a winning naivete.

Hernandez has swept away some of the woolliness from his Italian diction. And he is cultivating an ability to give vocal character to the different roles he plays. In Mozart’s “Vedro mentr’io sospiro,” Hernandez made us hear the angry Count’s determination and desire for vengeance, no costume nor acting required.

It probably would be too much to expect the same differentiation among the all-purpose baritone parts of Bellini and Donizetti - they do run together even in the voices of the great bel canto baritones. I got the feeling Saturday that Hernandez was husbanding his voice quite carefully, not unleashing its full power even when he seemed in danger of being overwhelmed by the orchestra. Conductor Fabio Mechetti’s accompaniments were always stylistically fitting and nearly always restrained enough for his soloist.

Hernandez rewarded the audience’s enthusiastic applause with some of the afternoon’s most beautiful and moving singing in the encore, “It’s a Lonely Town” from Bernstein’s “On the Town.” Hernandez is a natural for musical comedy, and symphony pianist Linda Siverts provided a lovely accompaniment.

Mechetti brought a Latin rhythmic bite to the dance movements of Aaron Copland’s “Three Latin American Sketches” and elicited from his woodwinds a portrait of nocturnal beauty in its “Mexican Landscape” movement.

The closing work, Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, is a real charmer. It bubbles with energy, and every page has some tune that sang on in my mind long after this concert was over. Mechetti and the orchestra infused it with the joy a happy event, such as Hernandez’s homecoming, should have.

, DataTimes MEMO: This concert will be repeated at The Met tonight and Tuesday, with both performances at 7:30 p.m.

This concert will be repeated at The Met tonight and Tuesday, with both performances at 7:30 p.m.