“Steven Smith concluded his tenure as music director of the Richmond Symphony without the usual onstage formalities, opting instead for high drama in a concert presentation of Bizet’s ‘Carmen,’ ” writes Clarke Bustard in Sunday’s (5/19) Virginia Classical Music Blog. “Denyce Graves … who has made Carmen one of her signature roles, was joined by a cast of singers from Virginia Opera, the Richmond Symphony Chorus and the Greater Richmond Children’s Choir…. Smith and the orchestra he has molded over the past decade were as stellar as any of the singers…. Sean Pannikar, as Don José, was Graves’ vocal and dramatic match…. The Richmond Symphony Chorus was very much a co-star in this show, bringing lusty collective tone and genuine characterization to their crowd-scene roles…. Smith has demonstrated secure command of complex scores and combinations of orchestra and voices numerous times in his conducting career here. This ‘Carmen,’ certainly among the highlights of his tenure, was more celebratory than valedictory. The orchestra he leaves is in prime performing shape, disciplined in ensemble and flexible in style, capable of timbral refinement as well as sonic power. The Richmond Symphony punches well above its weight among American orchestras, and Smith deserves much of the credit for that.”

Posted May 21, 2019