Music: Baritone in the Pea Patch

On the stage of Milan's La Scala one evening last week, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, mused about the futility of wealth and power. The aria, Oh! de' verd'anni miei, got hearty applause. After the curtain fell on the third act of Verdi's Ernani, barrel-chested Baritone Cornell MacNeil scurried back to his dressing room, where he signed his name to a La Scala option for next season. Then he dispatched a cable to his wife in Cliffside Park, NJ.: "We tore up the pea patch, doll."

At 34, MacNeil is the most promising U.S. baritone to frisk through the operatic pea patch...

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