"Rossini operas, of course, are about singing, and Tancredi in particular is one whose title role is so demanding that seldom finds producers nervy enough to put it on their stages. Written in 1813, this was its Canadian premiere. Even this was made possible only by the fact that in the past few years sensational contralto Ewa Podles has seized the part of Tancredi by the throat and made it her signature role.
Not only does the role of Tancrdi need a transfixing vocal presence such as Podles, it also cries out for someone with the dramatic charisma to take the viewer’s mind off the opera preposterous plot. But Podles so commanded the stage vocally and dramatically that her presence made the plot’s idiocy a secondary matter. She may be the quintessential contralto of our age, one whose amazing low register tones fill the hall, even at piano or lower dynamic levels, while the richness of her middle and upper registers and the finaly focused projection of her voice at all levels were a continual source of amazement.
Dramatically, Podles had graceful, purposeful, and unequivocally self-assured stage presence - the kind that can make a short, not particularly svelte female have the bravado to command this difficult "pants" role and to radiate a particularly mannish leadership quality. She made every gesture count. In doing a simple about-face she flung out her leg in a kicking motion that made it clear that she was in charge."

July 2005

by Herman Trotter