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Tenor Philip Webb makes surprise Met debut

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[March 14, 2009]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Tenor Philip Webb made a surprise Metropolitan Opera debut Friday night, replacing an ailing Marcelo Alvarez as Manrico for the second half of Verdi's "Il Trovatore."

Webb, Alvarez's cover singer, had a pleasant sound and nice color but didn't have quite enough power at times for a hall the size of the Met. His voice was slightly constricted at the top of "Di quella pira," and the bearded tenor moved well despite being a bit burly. The crowd gave him a warm ovation during the curtain calls, and he visibly exhaled. Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky gave Webb a warm hug.

Webb grew up outside Kansas City, Mo., and was a church music minister when he entered a vocal competition in 1993. He won first prize, earning an opera seminar and master classes with bass Giorgio Tozzi. Webb had never seen a professional opera production at the time, according to his Web site.

He started studying with soprano/mezzo-soprano Margaret Harshaw later in 1993 and with tenor Carlo Bergonzi in 2001. According to his Web site, he has sung with several U.S. companies, including New York City Opera, Madison Opera, Sarasota Opera and Utah Opera.

Met spokesman Jonathan Tichler said Alvarez had felt too ill at intermission to continue the performance.

The rest of the cast remained the same as at the Feb. 16 premiere of the David McVicar production: soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora), mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick (Azucena), Hvorostovsky (Count di Luna) and bass Kwangchul Youn (Ferrando), with Gianandrea Noseda conducting.


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[Associated Press; By RONALD BLUM]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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