We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


José Maldonado, Victoria Crutchfield, Thomas Muraco, Shaina Martinez, WooYoung Yoon, Polixeni Tziouvaras, Dongwei Shen, Sungah Baek, and Juan Lázaro

When Tom Muraco puts on an opera, you tend to show up out of FOMO.  To miss one would leave you feeling cheated out of a predictably delightful experience. The operas are astutely chosen, the talented students are wisely cast, and the bare bones style of production allows one to focus on the music. In this case, we had an intense exposure to Mozart's masterpiece of romantic entanglement--Cosi fan tutte.

Maestro Muraco himself conducted and the score for two pianos and harpsichord continuo (actually an electronic keyboard) was devised by the three keyboard artists themselves--Sungah Baek, Juan Lázaro, and Yixin Tan. The three did a great job and we were able to hear compositional elements that we missed when the work was presented with full orchestra. Actually, we think we heard more music.  Could it be that some music that is generally cut was restored?  Or did our ears deceive us? There is enough music in this opera for two operas!

The students of Manhattan School of Music are as fond of Maestro Muraco as we are. We sat next to the podium as he conducted and can attest to the fact that he knows every word in the libretto and every note of the score. His love for music and for his students was equally obvious.

As Don Alfonso, the older cynic who sets the crazy plot in motion, José Maldonado might have stolen the show, were the other artists not as fine as they were. His huge Falstaffian presence and voice, augmented by seemingly natural dramatic chops, created a real character. Every glance and wry smile, every barb carried weight.

His partner in crime, the wily Despina was performed by soprano Yesul Yeon whose slender voice was well focused and whose comic chops matched those of Mr. Maldonado. Her featured aria "Una donna a quindici anni" was very well done. We loved the way she exaggerated the rolling of her "r"s.

Since the theme of Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto was fiancé swapping, the opera requires four engaging singers that we can care about, even while laughing at their puerility. As Fiordiligi we had the shining soprano Shaina Martinez who successfully negotiated the wild skips of "Come scoglio". Legend has it that Mozart wrote it thus to make the soprano he disliked bob her head like a chicken, due to the way she sang high and low notes!

As her sister, we heard marvelous mezzo-soprano Polixeni Tziouvaras, who did herself credit in her aria "Smanie implacabili".  Mozart made sure that each singer had an aria. Her voice harmonized beautifully with that of Ms. Martinez, especially in "Prenderó quel brunettino". Mozart made sure that there were also plenty of duets, trios, quartets, etc.

Tenor WooYoung Yoon has a pleasant ringing tenor and created a fine Ferrando; we enjoyed his voice most in "Tradito, schernito"; he had some splendid duets with baritone Dongwei Shen who excelled as Guglielmo. His aria "Donne mie, la fate a tanti" was beautifully rendered in all of its angst. The voices of the two men blended as successfully as those of the women.

One of our favorite ensemble pieces, "Soave sia il vento" was gorgeously sung by Mr. Maldonado, Ms. Martinez and Ms. Tziouvaras. We could not have been more pleased with the musical elements.

But what about the production elements.  As we indicated, this is a bare bones production and Director Victoria Crutchfield did well for the most part in the interactions among the singers. We loved the way the chorus (all excellent, by the way) moved the "furniture" (just a bench, a table, and some chairs) with Despina in charge, pounding the floor to summon the furniture movers for a scene change, which always seemed to involve lifting things over her head.

Our only quibble was with a few anachronisms. Probably to avoid the cost of costuming, the action seems to have been moved to the present, what with the cell phones and contemporary clothing. So why did the women carry 18th c. parasols?  The "Albanians" became "hipsters from Williamsburg and Tribeca".  Anyone from New York would know that Tribeca is populated by very wealthy Wall Streeters. You'd be hard pressed to find a hipster there.  Better to have used Bed-Stuy or Bushwick.

For those of us who understand Italian, hearing one thing and seeing titles saying something else creates a momentary lapse of concentration and involvement. A "brunettino" is a man with dark hair, NOT a man in spectacles! These disjunctions are occurring more and more as operas are squeezed into time periods that do not fit.

Minor criticisms aside, it was a fun evening and made us realize that we have more in common with the 18th c. Viennese than with the 19th c. audience which found this opera vulgar and scandalous.

There will be a repeat performance on Sunday matinée with a different but presumably equally talented cast.

(c) meche kroop


Nate Raskin, Zalman Kelber, Adrian Timpau, Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez

We have written extensively about the mission and accomplishments of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, so let's just plunge right into yesterday's exciting recital. We confess that we are most receptive to a singer's artistry when we love the work he/she has chosen. Although we have sometimes been brought to appreciate a previously unloved work by a singer who can show us its worth, still we prefer to hear works that speak (sing) to us.

Schumann's Liederkreis, Op.39 is just such a work. Repeated hearings allow us to discover new ideas and feelings we may have overlooked. It is in Italian opera and German lieder that we can best appreciate the multiple features of a singer's artistry.

From the very first phrase sung by baritone Adrian Timpau we could assess that magical undefinable appeal that connects the singer with the audience, heart to heart. Mr. Timpau must love these songs and they fit his voice like a bespoke suit. The timbre is at times soothing and at other times forceful but there is always a connection with the material.

His German provided no opportunity for criticism. Vowels were round and resonant whilst consonants were crisp. We could understand every word without glancing at the program. Phrasing was lovely and there was ample dynamic variety.

This cycle tells no story--it is just a collection of splendid songs in different moods. Our favorite song is "Waldegespräch".  Mr . Timpau changed the warm color of his voice heard in "Intermezzo" to one of harshness as he sang the words of the rider in the forest who perhaps means no good toward the beautiful woman he comes upon, who just so happens to be the witch Lorelei. We could discern Mr. Timpau's intention to color their two voices differently but we sense that he could do just a little bit more to establish the man's character, whether he interprets him as seductive, well meaning, or evil. We would wish for a lighter color for the woman's voice.

In "Auf einer Burg" Mr. Timpau ensured that we saw through his eyes--the stone statuary and the abandoned hermitage.  Collaborative pianist Nate Raskin made sure that we heard, through his fingers, the rain, the woodland birds, and the musicians.  The performance was a revelation.

Mr. Raskin's piano was at all times in the moment. We loved the peaceful introduction to "Mondnacht" and the piano part of "Schöne Fremde". The searching melody in the piano created a spooky mood for Mr. Timpau's anxious verse in "Zwielicht". "Im Walde" was notable for the aural picture created by the artists--birds, hunting horns, and all.

We have one observation and perhaps a suggestion for Mr. Timpau. We noticed that he clasped his hands in a ministerial pose for the entire cycle. We would suggest that he loosen his grip and allow his hands to express what comes across so successfully in his voice.

Soprano Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez needs no such encouragement. Her body and face are as expressive as her large voice. The fine vibrato lent some serious overtones that we felt in the bones of our middle ear. The molecules in the room were dancing.

Her collaborative pianist Zalman Kelber was with her every step of the way. It's a fine voice for Strauss and we have no criticism of her German in the four selections we heard, but we enjoyed the Spanish more, probably because we don't get to hear it as often as we'd like.

Joaquín Turina's Poema en Forma de Canciones is a fine composition, filled with Andalusian flavor, so well captured by Ms. Ramírez and Mr. Kelber.  The Spanish rhythms of the lengthy piano introduction to "Nunca olvida" made us want to get up and dance.  

All the songs in this cycle are about love--disappointed love, ambivalent love, and love for the goddess Venus. Our favorite in this group was "Las locas por amor" when Venus turns down long term sensible love for brief mad passion! Yes indeed!

As much as we enjoyed these Spanish songs about love, we were over the moon for Ms. Ramírez' performance of "Carceleras" from the 1889 zarzuela Las Hijas del Zebedeo by Ruperto Chapí. In this song, the singer tells of her love for her sweetheart in extravagant metaphor. To say that Ms. Ramírez threw her all into this song is saying a lot; there is a lot of her and it is all wonderful!

(c) meche kroop

Friday, March 23, 2018


Chris Reynolds and Natalia Kutateladze

Chris Reynolds and Felicia Moore

Last night we attended the Juilliard Vocal Arts Honors Recital at Alice Tully Hall. Voice teachers nominate singers to audition for this honor and the competition is keen. One of the judges happened to be Jennifer Zetlan, a Juilliard alumna whom we just reviewed last night in On Site Opera's Morning Star.  

Each singer chose her own program and both were accompanied by the talented collaborative pianist Chris Reynolds.

The ravishing mezzo-soprano Natalia Kutateladze opened her half of the program with a chanson by Jules Massenet; The text by Louis Pierre Gabriel Bernard Morel-Retz, entitled "Amoureuses" was highly romantic and Ms. Kutateladze performed it in perfect French with spot-on phrasing.

A set of songs by Tchaikovsky showed how they sound at their very best, sung by someone so comfortable in the language that the songs are more inhabited than performed. Although we do not speak or understand Russian, we were able to appreciate the marvelous marriage of music and text.

"None but the Lonely Heart" is a setting of a Russian translation of Goethe's text "Nur wer die sehnsucht kennt" from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, a text so potent that it appealed to a list of composers longer than the text. We mostly know it as one of the Mignon songs.

"Was I Not a Blade of Grass in the Field?" struck us with the sadness of a young woman married off to a man she does not love. She compares herself to a blade of grass that was mowed down.

Tolstoy's text "Amidst the Din of the Ball" motivated Tchaikovsky to write a most marvelous and memorable melody. A man sees a woman at a ball and thinks he has fallen in love with her.

With all that gorgeous melody, we still think the Pushkin text "Don't Sing to Me, My Beauty" is our favorite Russian song. Rachmaninoff gave it a haunting melody that could make anyone homesick. Each and every one of these Russian songs was sung with artistry and deep emotional commitment.

The final set on the program comprised Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas.  The advantage for us was that we understand Spanish and thus were able to appreciate Ms. Kutateladze's skill for word coloration and the creation of a mood. We adore this cycle, the first song of which gives us an ironic metaphor for men's negative attitude towards women's sexual expression. "El Paño Moruno" describes a cloth that has lost its value because of a stain.

The same judgmental attitude appears in "Seguidilla murciana", only this time the metaphor is a coin that has passed from hand to hand so much that it has become blurry and no one will accept it!

"Asturiana" is a song of deep sorrow and the search for consolation in nature, whereas "Nana" is a tender lullaby. "Canción" tells of lost love in a mournful way, whilst "Polo" tells of lost love in an angry bitter way.

It was a revelation to hear Ms. Kutateladze create the right mood for each song and to color each important word in a way that extracted every ounce of significance. With her gorgeous instrument, vital stage presence, intense involvement, and consummate musicianship, this is an artist to watch, one destined for stardom. Watch for her in the upcoming Juilliard Opera next month.

Soprano Felicia Moore walks onstage with such presence that one knows in advance that one is in for a treat.  Of course, having heard her many times before, we have advance knowledge. We can tell when a singer loves to sing!

One doesn't get enough Sibelius at song recitals so we were happy that Ms. Moore decided to invest so much energy into learning to sing in Swedish. From Five Songs, Op. 37, she sang one we'd never heard "Soluppgång", and two we know and love.

"Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote" tells of a girl who hides the signs of a lovers' meeting from her mother until she suffers from her lover's abandonment.  "Var det en dröm" is a song of nostalgia in which the poet recalls his lost love as a dream. Ms. Moore invested each song with depth and meaning.

Her gleaming instrument was put to good use in songs from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. We particularly loved the way collaborative pianist Chris Reynolds created a meditative mood for "Im Treibhaus" in which Wesendonck uses the metaphor of plants in a hothouse to represent the feelings of someone who is far from their homeland. We speculated that she herself was away from home but we were wrong.  She was German through and through.

In "Stehe still!",  Mr. Reynolds hands created the pianistic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine, indicating the rushing of time. Ms. Moore responded in beautiful partnership. By the fourth verse, things have calmed down and both artists responded with lyricism to the concept of souls sinking into each other.

"Traume" recreates the evanescent world of dreams in a highly poetic way and gave Ms. Moore another opportunity to create a sound world of delicacy.

Her program ended with selections from Aaron Copland's Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. We confess to no great love for poet or composer, which didn't stop us from appreciating Ms. Moore's superb performance. There were little touches that lent a high degree of artistry such as the enhanced vibrato on the final word of "Nature, the Gentlest Mother" and the way she left the final note of "The Chariot" hanging in the air.

The cutest song was the most timely--"Dear March, Come In!" a cute sentiment that made us want to like Dickinson more than we do.  It is just a fact that each of us has his/her taste and ours leans toward any language but English and any period prior to (but including) Richard Strauss!

That being said, Copland wrote some very interesting figures for the piano part of "Nature, the Gentlest Mother", and Mr. Reynolds' smashing piano technique and interpretive artistry brought them out.

Like nearly all the singers coming out of Juilliard Vocal Arts Department, Ms. Moore evinces those Juilliard qualities--presence, dramatic skills, expressive vocal technique, fine phrasing, and linguistic skills.  There must be something in the water!

(c) meche kroop

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Joshua Jeremiah, Emily Pulley, and Jennifer Zetlan in Morning Star (photo by Pavel Antonov)

The hardy New Yorkers who braved the "fourth'easter" of the season were rewarded with a resonant evening, some insights into New York history, some fine music, and some very stiff necks. The latter point has to do with one of the hazards of staging works on site, which On Site Opera does very well; the space may be evocative but not comfortable.

Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star, originally commissioned by Cincinnati Opera, was staged in the sanctuary of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, now the Museum at Eldridge Street. General and Artistic Director Eric Einhorn has staged the work using all parts of the sanctuary, including the balcony. This worked dramatically but made viewing uncomfortable since much of the action took place at the rear.

The evocative story concerns a family of immigrants in 1911 and 1932. They came from Riga in Latvia where, we gather, some unspeakable things were done to Jewish folk. But this compelling story could be paralleled in present time with any new immigrant group trying to adjust to a difficult life in a new place. The destructive effects of family secrets and the effects of tragedy on successive generations are both common themes in the theater.

The story concerns the widowed Becky Felderman (performed by the powerful soprano Emily Pulley) who has immigrated to the USA with her three daughters. The eldest, Sadie (affectingly sung by mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert) is the smart one who has never felt loved. The second is Fanny (sweet voiced Jennifer Zetlan) who will marry Irving (terrific tenor Blake Friedman) who will not let her sing.

The youngest girl Esther (performed by soprano Cree Carrico who plays "adorable" very well) captures the love of Sadie's main squeeze, the teacher Harry (fine baritone Andrew Lovato). Poor Esther dies in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (about which we have more to say further along) on her wedding day.

Important to the family is Aaron Greenspan who never gives up on his romantic pursuit of Becky. . Joshua Jeremiah used his keen dramatic instincts to create a believable character.  His powerful baritone matched well with Ms. Pulley's soprano. We particularly liked a song he sang in Yiddish which was mostly understood by this German-speaking reviewer. He was reminiscing about what he missed about Riga. Becky joined in with some not-so-happy memories.

We enjoyed Martin Bakari's sweet tenor in the role of Prince, a street peddler.  Smaller roles were taken by mezzos Chrystal E. Williams and Allison Gish. Only David Langan's bass-baritone was stentorian and unattractive as the rabbi.

Music Director Geoffrey McDonald did his customary superlative job conducting the American Modern Ensemble, a dozen fine musicians who made the most of Bruce Coughlin's orchestration for chamber orchestra. The wind section was particularly notable. The chamber orchestra was situated at the rear of the sanctuary and the sound floated forward with ease.

We have nothing but good things to say about the orchestral writing but we have a hard time finding something to praise about Ricky Ian Gordon's writing for the voice. The puzzling part of this is that Mr. Gordon wrote the most beautiful vocal line for Irving--"Oh Morning Star", a love song sung to woo Fanny.  Would that all the writing had been this melodic!

We did like the way that arias became duets and duets became ensembles.  The voices blended beautifully.  We just wanted to hear some melody! We liked Becky's song "Men come, men go, family abides". "Three loving sisters" was an interesting trio evincing a complex collection of emotions. 

Of all the sisters, Sadie was the most disagreeable and yet Ms. Gaissert's performance left us with sympathetic feelings. Her jealousy and bitterness clearly came out of feeling unloved.  She sang "Smart never won a man's heart". The early 20th c. was not kind to smart ambitious women. Her defensiveness was revealed in "Is it my fault?".

There was a 21 year gap between Act I and Act II; Summer Lee Jack's costumes were appropriate for both periods. Emilia Martin's wigs were as unflattering as wigs usually are. Shawn K. Kaufman's lighting design was splendid, especially for the fire which was so convincing that we nearly forgot it was "theater".

The libretto by the late William M. Hoffman seemed just fine, although a substantial amount could not be understood. Anyone who can rhyme "latkes" with "hot kiss" is OK in my book!

And now we come to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire story, the worst workplace disaster in NYC history until the World Trade Center attack of 2001.  The death toll was 146 people; greed and carelessness were to blame. If you seek more information, we refer you to http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/

The pre-opera lecture we attended added a great deal to our appreciation of the work itself. Two member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition spoke to the audience of their personal experience as relatives of women who lost their lives in the fire. These two generous speakers were Mary Anne Trasciatti and Suzanne Pred Bass whose memories brought the story alive for us. 

We were happy to learn that the tragedy had a silver lining in that the cause of labor was advanced; workplace safety has been addressed (and is still being addressed!) as was working conditions. The flagrantly indifferent owners of the factory were acquitted due to the efforts of a high-powered attorney who intimidated the young women witnesses.  So sad!

To bring the story to the present, Governor Andrew Cuomo has donated a significant amount of money to establishing a memorial so that this tragedy will be remembered.

(c) meche kroop

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Jonathan Heaney, Jessica Harika, Patrick McNally, Megan Gillis, Kathleen Spencer, and Eamon Pereyra

This month is International Women's Month and we just celebrated the success of an opera company founded by two wonderful women--soprano Megan Gillis and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Spencer. This perfectly affirms our belief that if you don't see what you want-- then create it.

Their creation is ARE opera.  The letters stand for Accessible, Relatable, and Enjoyable. In just one year, ARE has created major successes about which you can read by entering their names in the search bar.  Our personal favorite was Cenerentola. These two lovely ladies have a knack for finding wonderful talent and creating onstage magic.

Last night's recital at the Steinway showroom introduced us to a new singer and a few we've reviewed before, all of whom brought new life to old material, and gave us the opportunity to hear Ms. Gillis and Ms. Spencer as well. Ms. Spencer opened the program as a lively Carmen and Ms. Gillis gave us a Susannah from the eponymous Carlisle Floyd opera singing "Ain't It a Pretty Night" with such good English diction that we caught every word.

Tenor Eamon Pereyra, who did so well as Rinuccio in ARE's Gianni Schicchi, knows just how to build a song; he began "Maria", from Bernstein's West Side Story, very quietly and built to a dramatically effective climax. His personality shone and he made good use of vocal coloration to create a believable Tony who has just fallen in mad adolescent love. When he sang "The most beautiful sound" we were thinking "that's just what we are listening to...the most beautiful sound".

We got to hear another solo from Mr. Pereyra--"No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozábal's La taberna del puerto.  One very lovely aspect of this recital was that each singer addressed the audience, telling something about their song.  Mr. Pereyra mentioned that this was his favorite song and that comes as no surprise. He was totally immersed and so were we.

Baritone Patrick McNally performed the soliloquy from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel and did so with such fine voice and dramatic intent that we felt that we understood for the first time what a prospective father goes through. This performance reaffirmed our belief that American musical theater is really the opera of 20th c. America and needs to be performed by trained operatic voices without amplification.  Only then can we see the connection with its operatic origins.

We got more Carousel when Ms. Gillis an Mr. McNally sang the fine duet "If I Loved You". Mr. McNally paired with mezzo-soprano Jessica Harika for the charming duet "Dunque io son" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. We always get a laugh seeing how Rosina's cleverness exceeds that of Figaro. We particularly enjoyed the cabaletta with the two voices playing against one another. Again, the acting was as fine as the singing.

Ms. Harika impressed with her performance of "What a Movie!" from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, an opera that never had much interest for us. We believe Ms. Harika changed our mind with her riveting and expressive performance. She created quite a character!

Readers know how much we love duets and we heard two more worth mentioning. Ms. Gillis and Ms. Spencer performed "Prendero quel brunettino" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. We have never seen two singers looking more believable as sisters!  It swept us right into the plot. Their voices blended beautifully.

And finally, there was the highly romantic duet from Act I of Puccini's La Bohême--"O soave fanciulla" with Mr. Pereyra as Rodolfo and Ms. Gillis as Mimi. They walked offstage arm in arm, lost in the throes of love at first sight.  

We left in the throes of artistic delight. What a satisfying recital, drawing no distinction between vocal genres, treating every song with respect, making everything accessible, relatable and enjoyable for the audience.

At the piano, doing a superb job accompanying all those varied styles, was Music Director Jonathan Heaney, who is also an excellent conductor.

You too can enjoy this yearling company's next production.  Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore is an opera that lives up to ARE's mission and is a real crowd pleaser.  May 18. 19, and 20 are the dates to save.

(c) meche kroop

Monday, March 19, 2018


Huayin Shadow Puppet Band from Shaanxi Province China

China's ancient musical traditions are in danger of being lost--but not if pipa virtuoso Wu Man has anything to say about it!

In our country there are musicians whose names are familiar to just about everyone and we'd like to think that this lovely and talented woman is similarly famous in China. Her participation in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble and  the documentary film The Music of Strangers have made her famous. We were so happy to be exposed to her gifts Saturday night at the Society for Ethical Culture, as well as the unusual performance of the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, presented by the World Music Institute (www.worldmusicinstitute.org).

The pipa is a lute like instrument which was customarily plucked with fingers when the strings were made of silk; but presently, in concert halls, the steel strings are plucked with plastic finger picks, one on each finger of the right hand whilst the fingers of the left hand depress the strings onto the sounding board.  Ms. Man's right hand moved so rapidly that we were reminded of nothing more than the wings of a hummingbird. At times we thought of the player of flamenco guitar creating rasgueados.

It is worthwhile to see her artistry up close on You Tube...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg_iZhUlyRE

If the amplification of Ms. Man's voice had been better we would have loved to tell you the details she shared about the instrument, but only those in the center section of the hall seemed to hear and laugh along with her good humor. We only picked up a few words, so we can only tell you that the music, which there was no trouble hearing, was exciting at times and subtle at other times.

There was no subtlety in the performance of the  Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, which comprises farmers from Huayin County, a rural village in Shaanxi Province in northwest China. The musicians evinced a wild gusto that communicated with the audience. Onstage were four er-hu, an instrument with two strings that comes in various sizes to cover various portions of the register; a "bench" (looking like a sawhorse) which was brought over from China and played by striking with a blunt object; an hexagonal bowed instrument with three strings, a shawm, a heraldic looking trumpet several feet long that sounded like an angry duck, and all manner of percussion--clappers, gongs, and cymbals.

The sounds were raucous and probably told of ancient battles, mythical heroes, and gods of the oral folk culture of the region.  The shadow puppetry was created upon a backlit white screen and was not so different from that found in Indonesia. The tradition first appeared in this village during the Qing Dynasty in the mid-18th c. It once belonged exclusively to the Zhang family but has recently been passed down to outsiders.

We wish we had understood the narration because it was difficult to figure out what was happening. One scene was perfectly clear.  Two warriors mounted on very small horses threw spears at each other in a long pitched battle. The other scene was confusing but it seemed as if a group of people were scolding a person.

At the end we heard a piece in which the melody was passed around from one instrument to another which we found quite lovely. What a fascinating discovery!

(c) meche kroop


Tami Petty and Michael Sheetz

We know well that the talented Tami Petty won the Joy in Singing award in 2014; we were there and wrote enthusiastically about her gifts communicating the essence of song to the audience. Since that auspicious debut, we have seen, heard, and enjoyed Ms. Petty's gifts a number of times at the Brooklyn Art Song Society and once with The Bohemians. Yesterday we enjoyed her gifts even more at a salon graciously hosted by one of Joy in Singing's devoted members.

Perhaps it was the intimacy of the surroundings or perhaps Ms. Petty has been working on her English diction because we got every word of her English--the only quibble we had four years ago.

The theme for the afternoon put women composers front and center. We had just heard Clara Schumann's "Liebst du um Schonheit" Friday night and wrote how it shouldn't take second place to Mahler's setting. Ms. Petty's performance reinforced our belief. The luster of her instrument and attention to detail in the phrasing were amplified by gesture and facial expression. We want to hear this song again and again!

Ms. Petty's German ist perfekt and served her well in Alma Mahler's "Ich wandle unter Blumen", another lovely entry in the female composer sweepstakes.

We heard some lovely French as well and always admire a singer who can switch gears for each language. Regine Wieniawski (Poldowski) set Paul Verlaine's  "L'heure exquise" in 1917, a quarter century after Reynaldo Hahn did so --another tempting pair for Mirror Visions Ensemble. The two settings are different but equally lovely. The start is delicate but Ms. Petty opened up her sizable voice whilst collaborative pianist, known mainly through his work with Classic Lyric Arts, put forth some lovely arpeggi.

Cecile Chaminade's songs were popular in her time--all 125 of them!  There were clubs celebrating her oeuvre right here in the USA. Yesterday we heard the delightful "Ecrin" which was performed in a most flirtatious manner. The French was crystal clear but one got the message even if one didn't understand the language.

Pauline Viardot's "Madrid" was written for the mezzo fach but that didn't stop Ms. Petty who conveyed the high spirited vocal line whilst Mr. Sheetz conveyed all the flamenco inflected accompaniment. We loved it!

The remainder of the songs were in English but that didn't stop us from enjoying them! Amy Beach's "The Year's at the Spring" was familiar to us but "Take, O Take Those Lips Away" was new to us.  Clara Edwards' "Into the Night" was filled with longing and quite lovely.

Liza Lehmann's  "Evensong" was seriously sentimental but her "There are fairies at the bottom of our garden" is filled with sly humor and Ms. Petty used just the right amount of camp, to the delight of the audience.

We even got to hear Mr. Sheetz perform Fanny Mendelssohn's "Pastorella" which reminded us of "Lieder ohne Worte" inasmuch as we were writing words in our head!  Indeed, Fanny probably wrote a lot of music that got passed off as her brother's because of restrictions enacted upon women by society and their families.

A fun aspect of yesterday's salon was that different guests were selected to read a brief bio about each composer. So many women composers were prevented from performing; others composed out of financial necessity.

As encore, we got "SHE'S got the whole world in HER hands". We couldn't keep from thinking that Ms. Petty has the world of art song in HER hands! That spiritual never made so much sense! And who can get a song across better than Ms. Petty!

Did you know that Joy in Singing is the oldest art song organization in the USA! Did you now that you too may be eligible to attend one of these intimate salons? We highly recommend the experience.

(c) meche kroop