MISSION

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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

COURTESANS AND THE MEN WHO LOVE THEM

Jonathan Tetelman, Emily Birsan, and Ethan Simpson

We can think of no opera we like better than La Traviata, nor can we think of a heroine who touches our heart as deeply as Violetta does.  Readers, you are about to hear an extravagant encomium. We have seen dozens of performances of Giuseppe Verdi's masterpiece and have never seen one so perfectly cast as the one we saw last night at Merkin Hall.

Who but Daniel Cardona of Martha Cardona Opera takes the time and does the hard work to discover young artists with big impressive voices and fine technique--and to give them a New York stage on which to show their stuff. Production values in this semi-staged production may have been at a minimum but the casting was first rate.

As the tragic heroine Violetta, soprano Emily Birsan used her generous instrument with emotional accuracy by means of vocal coloration and consummate skill in the fioritura, which never seemed gratuitous but always connected with the feelings of Piave's text.

We love Violetta for her dignity and emotional freedom and we love witnessing her characterological growth from the wild spirit of Act I to the desperate frail creature she becomes by the end. We watch and hear her deal with ambivalence in Act I; what independent woman has not felt such ambivalence about accepting love into her life with all its concomitant risks! Ms. Birsan captured it all in a way that no one could fail to grasp.

Just watching her blossom in Act II, only to have her butterfly wings pulled off by the self-righteous father Giorgio Germont, who manipulates her into leaving his love-besotted son by playing the religion card. Stunned by the magnificent performance of baritone Ethan Simpson, we observed this stiff-necked provincial soften when faced with Violetta's dignity and devotion.

In Act III one could observe the outcome of her enormous sacrifice. Love is the best medicine but loss of love is totally toxic. Her frailty and thin thread of hope kept the audience riveted until she collapsed into Alfredo's arms.

And what an Alfredo we had last night!  Tenor Jonathan Tetelman is a star on the rise and if you were there last night, you got to say you "heard him when". Finding a tall handsome tenor with terrific tone is almost impossible, but one with superb technique is beyond belief. We heard marvelous phrasing, lovely legato, superb command of dynamics, and a variety of vocal colors. Significantly, he doesn't push his voice but floats the tone confidently.

Alfredo also grows as a character. He begins as a love-sick pup in Act I and blossoms into a loving man in Act II. His apparent rejection by Violetta creates grief and then anger. The sympathy of his father in Act II becomes disdain and shame in Act III when Alfredo behaves badly toward Violetta.  Only in Act IV is there resolution, when all three principals can share their grief.

What a pleasure to see three young artists interact so believably! It was impressive to watch the young Mr. Simpson convince us that he was a middle-aged father by the manner in which he moved his body and the authoritative tone in his voice! This is surely a baritone to watch! Both his arias in Act II were outstanding.

Another dramatic "deception" was seeing the beautiful young soprano Maria Brea transform herself into the elderly and exceedingly dowdy Annina. Although she had but a few lines, they were well sung.

As the unpleasant Barone Douphol, we had the excellent baritone Eric Lindsey whom we always enjoy.  He and Mr. Tetelman created the requisite tension in Act III without benefit of a gambling table. Tenor Ganson Salmon was effective as Gastone, Alfredo's friend. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Sanchez made a fine Flora with bass Neil Eddinger as her Marchese.

In a semi-staged production like this, the acting took place in a narrow space in front of the orchestra with only a couple pieces of furniture. It is testament to the vocal and dramatic skills of the principals that we were able to focus on them and to create scenery for them in our mind's eye.

Maestro Gregory Ortega is a conductor of precision; he evoked an excellent performance from the Martha Cardona Opera Orchestra. We could not have asked for better musical values. We might have asked for better titles, but if the only quibble we have is with a recalcitrant projector, that should tell you how much we enjoyed this production.

The highly regarded Jestin Pieper served as backstage conductor (Mr. Tetelman's offstage singing at the end of Act I sounded great as did the Carnival crowd in Act IV) and master of the excellent chorus who portrayed party-goers.

Watch out for these rising stars!  May they fill the operatic firmament with their glitter.

(c) meche kroop



Monday, October 15, 2018

CHRISTMAN OPERA COMPANY'S DOUBLE HEADER

Rachel Barg, Sooyeon Kang, Theodore Christman, Madison Marie McIntosh, Jennifer Allenby, Alyssa Brode, and Nobuki Momma

Theodore Christman has been on our radar screen for two and a half years,  since Madison Marie McIntosh performed a song cycle he wrote and accompanied at the piano. Mr. Christman writes music that is accessible and tuneful; it is anything but academic. We were very enthusiastic.

We have since heard a couple of short operas he composed which he customarily pairs with a well known opera by a "dead white male". Yesterday, at the National Opera Center, we heard two of his one-act operas--a reiteration of Adriana McMannes and a new opera entitled A Metamorphosis.


The first is is an Upstairs/Downstairs tale in which a widower falls in love with his daughter's governess. The obstacle to their marriage is the widower's mother-in-law who spreads ugly gossip about the governess' mental stability. Fortunately she is made to retract her words and the tale has a happy conclusion.

A new director, Mark Watson, has changed the tone of the work and pushed it in the direction of over-the-top comedic melodrama, with exaggerated gestures. Marvelous mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh gamely gave the director what he asked for with no sacrifice of her prodigious vocal skills. She was particularly excellent with the coloratura work in the second act, in which she batted her eyelashes in time with the trill. Her love duets with the miscast tenor Kevin Courtemanche produced some lovely harmonies.

Reprising her role as Mrs. Fowler was Sarah Knott, a very different sort of mezzo-soprano who relished her role as the mother-in-law from hell. Soprano Eugenia Forteza made a fine showing as the disagreeable Mrs. Tonti who employed Adriana.

The flaw in the work was Anna  Winslow's libretto. The story seems to belong to a different epoch, one in which the rumor of mental illness might lead to ostracism and when a woman making an overture toward a man would be shocking. We couldn't help thinking of Britten's comedy Albert Herring, the libretto of which is also "old fashioned" but consistent, whereas this libretto is uneven in tone. Furthermore, many of the words seemed tortured into submission in order to fit the vocal line, especially in the recitativi.  Mr. Christman's music deserves better!

The second work on the program, A Metamorphosis, also seemed burdened by an anachronistic and awkward libretto. A woman named Arinyae (mezzo-soprano Rachel Barg) runs a theater named Shadowland as a sort of commune, providing food and shelter to homeless teens, in exchange for their services as actors and artists. 

The framing device was a lonely old woman named Juniper who is reflecting back on her youth as a part of this group. In this role, Ms. McIntosh used bodily gesture as well as vocal color to portray both the elderly woman and the teenager she recalls. Her singing was exceptional.

But the story is muddled with an unnecessary sub-plot about the members of the group dealing drugs by delivering paintings to Buzzman, the owner of a lamp store played by Mr. Courtemanche, who was more believable in this role than he was as a romantically inclined widower.

One of the members of the group named Peter (sung by the fine baritone Nobuki Momma) falls in love with the daughter of an insect-obsessed drug addict client (bass baritone Sean Kroll); her name is Clover (bright voiced soprano Alyssa Brode) and she joins the theater commune as well, to the dismay of Juniper who also loves Peter.  

There is also an overdose by Soka (soprano Jennifer Allenby) and Ariyae's death with the theme of soul possession. Does this sound like too many threads for a one-act opera?  It did to us! A retrospective view of the 60's is a great idea but this tale did not succeed.

The piano score was played to perfection by Music Director Marijo Newman. We do not know whether Mr. Christman has orchestrated the works but that would surely be something to look forward to. We would like to see his music get the libretto it deserves. 

We acknowledge that the libretti we heard yesterday did rhyme and scan, which is admirable, but they were clunky and often unsingable. We think a one-act opera should focus on a simple story and be told clearly. English is spoken in short phrases that are "punchy"; it is difficult to be lyrical in English. Broadway lyricists seem to have mastered the art. So should opera lyricists!

(c) meche kroop

Saturday, October 13, 2018

FRIDAY NIGHT DATE WITH MOZART

Juan Lázaro, Katrin Bulke, Darrell Lauer, and Keith Milkie at St. John's in the Village

The glamorous coloratura soprano Katrin Bulke first came to our attention a year and a half ago when she appeared through the auspices of the German Forum. We were highly impressed (review available through search bar) and wondered when we would have the opportunity to hear her again. Our wish was granted last night when we heard her debut solo recital in the United States, right here in New York City in the lovely church St. John's in the Village, a church renowned for supporting the arts.

Ms. Bulke curated the program herself, choosing material that would show off her artistry and versatility. She also chose a couple guest artists, one at the beginning of a promising career and one approaching the end of a successful one. As accompanist she chose Juan Lázaro, one of our favorite collaborative pianist whose graduate studies are at Manhattan School of Music with Maestro Tom Muraco, whom we absolutely cherish. She could not have made a better choice.

In this "mostly Mozart" evening we renewed our acquaintance with several of Mozart's heroines for whom this operatic genius composed gorgeous melodic arias; Mozart's writing for the opera has its own characteristic stamp but also individually reflects much about the character for whom he is writing. Ms. Bulke used her vocal and dramatic assets well to illuminate each character. With consummate versatility, she was able to create several characters in the same opera!

Take for example, Die Zauberflöte. Could any three characters be more different than the sweet innocent Pamina, the winsome Papagena, and the vitriolic Queen of the Night? And yet each character was limned by means of vocal color and gesture. "Der Hölle Rache" with its high-lying tessitura was the aria that so riveted our attention at the German Forum; the perfect accuracy of the coloratura passages and the brilliance of her upper register have only improved with time.

Pamina's "Ach, ich fühl's" was delivered with pathos and for the "Pa-pa-pa-pa" duet she enlisted young baritone Keith Milkie who came to our attention through Vocal Productions New York. The two artists had a wonderful flirtatious rapport.

The same pair were completely different in "Là ci darem la mano" with Ms. Bulke's ambivalence in counterpoint with Mr. Milkie's seductiveness.

We also heard Mr. Milkie in a solo aria from Le Nozze di Figaro-"Se vuol ballare". This promising baritone has an acting background and certainly got Figaro's intentions across.

Ms. Bulke again showed her versatility by performing the Countess' aria "Dove sono" with dignity and despair but with a change of color for the hopeful ending. Susanna's final aria "Deh vieni, non tardar" gave full attention to Susanna's loving deception of her husband. She would deal effectively with male jealousy right from the start!

There were more goodies on the program including Donna Anna's "Non mi dir" from Don Giovanni; her interpretation was one of sincerity. There was also a duet "Fuggi, crudele" with veteran tenor Darrell Lauer portraying the devoted Don Ottavio a role we are sure he has sung many times before since he also sang "Il mio tesoro", winning a big hand from the audience.

The lesser known Die Entführung aus dem Serail has two female roles and Ms. Bulke gave us Blonde's advice to Osmin "Durch Zärtlichkeit" as well as Konstanze's killer aria of firmness of character "Martern aller Arten". This comic singspiel shows us the lighter side of Mozart's genius and Mr. Lázaro showed us some gorgeous playing in the extended piano introduction to Kostanze's aria.

We applaud Ms. Bulke for her expressive melismatic singing and the crystalline texture of her instrument, especially revealed in the concert aria "Exultate, Jubilate".

There was even an encore in which Mr. Lauer joined Ms. Bulke for the "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata. At this point we noticed how differently Mr. Lázaro colored the piano for Verdi's very different writing.

It was a splendid evening in a fine venue with great acoustics. Music lovers would do well to check out the varied musical programs at St. John's in the Village, the garden of which was employed for a lovely post-concert reception.

(c) meche kroop




Friday, October 12, 2018

EARLY HALLOWEEN

 Joshua Jeremiah as Frankenstein's Monster (Photo by Kevin Condon)

We are in the catacombs of Greenwood Cemetery, ready to be creeped out by another site specific work presented by Andrew Ousley as the last entry in a season called The Angel’s Share.  And if you are curious about that name, please see our earlier reviews.  Mr. Ousley seems to have a taste for the spooky, considering his other series in the subterranean Crypt of the Church of the Intercession.

The presentation lasted slightly over an hour, less than the time it took us to get to this remote corner of Brooklyn. The summer event had allowed us to stroll uphill through the verdant and peaceful resting place for New York notables. But tonight we were brought uphill by trolley, following a whiskey tasting, of which we did not partake. Theatrical judgment requires sobriety!

And what a theatrical evening it was, stimulating to eye and ear. We had composer Gregg Kallor at the piano, introducing sketches of an opera he is developing based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic tale Frankenstein. The scene we heard was the part in which the “monster” confronts his creator, the scientist Victor Frankenstein. 

His frightening appearance has caused him to be shunned by society. We couldn’t keep ourself from thinking about the “aliens” in our midst, those who arrive in our country without knowing the language, trying to learn and get accepted. But this monster knows he will never be accepted, although he has been hanging around a nice family, observing their customs and learning to read from their books.  Only the blind old grandfather accepted him.

He is demanding that Frankenstein create a mate for him; in a blackmail move, he threatens to visit his creator on Frankenstein's wedding night; we know that it won’t be a friendly visit!  Things go downhill from there but that part of the opera has yet to be written. Mr. Kallor’s piano was accompanied by Joshua Roman’s cello. 

The music was filled with anxiety as befits the tale, although we preferred the rare lyrical passage. The libretto was a bit to literary for our taste and seemed awkward to sing, although baritone Joshua Jeremiah sang powerfully as the monster and acted the part every bit as well as he sang. In the role of the frightened Frankenstein, tenor Brian Cheney was similarly effective. As  “the bride of Frankenstein”, Jennifer Johnson Cano made a brief and welcome appearance, trying to comfort her fiancé.

After a piano interlude celebrating Leonard Bernstein, Ms. Cano performed the chilling piece The Tell-Tale Heart—Edgar Allen Poe’s 1843 short story, a monologue by a murderous psychopath whose guilt leads him to have auditory hallucinations of the sound of a beating heart coming from under the floorboards where he buried the dismembered body. We heard this piece before at one of the Crypt performances; the review can be found through the search bar.

Although horror is our least favorite genre, we must admit that Ms. Cano’s intense and self-effacing performance held our attention and drove the audience to wild applause. For our taste, we have preferred her performances of more lyrical material, performances we have often reviewed. She is indeed a wonder of versatility!

Sarah Meyers directed the evening and Tláloc López-Watermann provided the highly effective and evocative lighting. Fay Eva’s costume design was just right, with the monster’s face mostly hidden by a hoodie.

The evening had a powerful effect; we were too shaken to walk down the dark pathway to the exit and were happy to ride the trolley!

Happy Halloween!  We got a jump start on ya’!

(c) meche kroop


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

JOY AND MORE JOY IN SINGING

Haodong Wu and Marisa Karchin at Weill Recital Hall

Surely musicians do not have to be beautiful to look at but there's no denying the visual pleasure of seeing two such lovely artists onstage at Weill Recital Hall last night at the Joy in Singing 2018 International Art Song Award Debut Recital.

An interesting factoid is that we reviewed each of them separately in connection with Cantanti Project. Haodong Wu was the pianist for a recital of love songs and Ms. Karchin sang in Händel's Orlando.  How fine it was to see both of them given an entire recital to show their versatility. Their introduction of each set was delightfully presented.

An unusual feature of Ms. Karchin's artistry is that we could understand every word she sang, in spite of the bright coloratura nature of her instrument. There is an appealing aspect to her vibrato as well. She chose her own program and wisely included plenty of material with melismatic passages, at which she excels.

There is nothing reticent about Ms. Wu's collaborative pianism. She didn't drown out the singer but she certainly didn't fade into the background.  The result was a true matching of artistry.

The program opened with two songs by Purcell, one of the few composers who set English in a way that delights our ear. Both "Sweeter than Roses" and "If Music be the Food of Love" offer opportunities for word coloration and the artists availed themselves of the opportunity, whether the word was "sweet" or "warm", "freeze" or "fire".

Six songs from Lili Boulanger's Clairières dans le ciel were performed.  If the French pronunciation left something to be desired (Yes, those nasalities and diphthongs are difficult to master!) at least the Gallic style was mastered, leaving us to hope that Ms. Karchin will get some additional coaching in French. Her cool tone is just perfect for French.  We heard her in the duet from Delibes' Lakme three years ago and thought the same.

This is our week for Turina's music, which we just heard in a concert at Manhattan School of Music. We can never get enough of Spanish song and were happy that the program included Tres poemas from Opus 81. We particularly admired Ms. Wu's playing in "Tu pupila es azul". Again, we loved the melismatic singing. We heard some insecurity in the Castilian and even a touch of Argentinian accent at times--something that should be very easy to correct.

We have no such quibbles with the Russian since that is a language we have not learned. It was a brave move to put four songs by Nikolai Obukhov on the program. This so-called "modernist mystic" wrote dodecaphonic music, including all sorts of weird vocal utterances, that the audience listened to respectfully. 

The final set by Strauss came as a relief and we noted that Obukhov's music will be performed long after Strauss' music has died--but not a moment before! (Insert laugh). In spite of listening with "open ears", we were gritting our teeth halfway through. We will say, however, that the artists gave the songs a committed and expressive performance.

The Strauss left us happy of heart. That man knew how to write for the voice!  His Brentano Lieder appeared after a decade long hiatus from song writing and must have been greeted with as much glee then as we felt last night. The humanity and accessibility of the text is matched by the stunning vocal writing, filled with descending chromatic passages and wide skips.

Here, Ms.Karchin was in her element, bringing every passage to vivid life with her storytelling.  Her artistic choice was to soften the "ch" sound, avoiding its guttural nature; this was fine since it was consistent. We get annoyed when a singer avoids the sound altogether or pronounces it inconsistently. A little brushing up of the umlaut sounds would make her German perfect.

Ms. Karchin's father is a composer and was in the audience to hear her sing his setting of two poems by Seamus Heaney, whose text, which neither rhymed nor scanned, led to a vocal line than was not memorable. We found our ears leaning toward the piano writing which was interesting.

Let us close by pointing out that Joy in Singing, in their sixtieth year, is under new leadership and is expanding its mission. They will now be known as Joy in Singing, The Art Song Institute. Visit www.joyinsinging.org to learn about their outreach in public schools (YAY!), their series Art Song on the Move, their Song Salons in private homes, their master classes and workshops.

(c) meche kroop

Friday, October 5, 2018

SHAINA MARTINEZ SINGS TURINA

Shaina Martinez onstage at Riverside Church


The splendid soprano Shaina Martinez has been on our radar screen for quite some time. We have heard her in several languages, in opera and in art song, and always found her voice to be an exciting one. The most recent appearance was in a concert of Spanish song with Voces Unidas--a truly memorable experience. The review can be found through the search bar.

Having recently been awarded her Masters in Music at the Manhattan School of Music, she was the perfect choice to sing Joaquín Turina's cycle Poema en forma de canciones, the centerpiece of last night's MSM Philharmonia Orchestra's program at Riverside Church.

Our love for Spanish music knows no bounds and hearing these songs sung so expressively was a true treat. Following the instrumental "Dedicatoria", in which the MSM Philharmonia established the Andalusian background, we heard four songs of varying moods, each one a gem.

In "Nunca olvida", the poet (Ramó María de las Mercedes de Campoamor y Campoosorio) is on her deathbed and makes a private and unexpected confession to her lover. "Cantares" begins with a thrilling vocalise on the word "Ahi" that tells us more than the words which follow. The poet is haunted by regret for being so spellbound that he was not truly present; he listened without hearing and looked without seeing. This condition is a familiar one, verdad?

Fortunately, our lovely soprano was so present that she wore the songs as well as her gown. At several points we wondered how she could maintain such fine technique whilst seemingly immersed in the feelings.

"Los dos miedos" relates the dramatic change in a woman who was afraid to get close to her lover and then became afraid to be apart; this too is a situation that seems familiar. The ending of the song "sin ti" was exquisite.

The final song "Las locas por amor" has some raucous orchestral writing in the introduction and in the brief interlude between stanzas, emphasizing the humor involved when Venus tells her admirer that she prefers intensity to duration.

We have often heard this all-too-brief cycle of songs in its original 1917 version for voice and piano, but this is the first time we have heard the 1918 orchestral version. Under the baton of the lively Perry So, the MSM Philharmonia played magnificently and captured the Andalusian flavor.

Opening the program was A Rush of Wings by Robert Sirota who was President of MSM from 2005 until 2012. This 2008 work was premiered by the MSM Chamber Sinfonia in 2009. Although we did not hear the intended spiritual emphasis of the composer, we liked the originality of the sonorities. At times the work was insistent and, at other times, ethereal. We particularly enjoyed the heraldic role of the winds and the sound of the chimes.

The program concluded with the massive Symphony #7 by Anton Bruckner, who came to symphonic composing rather late in life and who was influenced by Richard Wagner, even employing the Wagner tuba in this work. It premiered in 1884 and, performed by the MSM Philharmonia, revealed its monumental nature and an impressive variety of colors in its orchestration.

It is a muscular work and makes significant demands on the instrumentalists and on the listener with endless variety in the thematic material. We especially enjoyed the Scherzo with its skipping rhythm and leaping fifths.

An interesting arrangement put seven brasses above and behind the orchestra. We felt swept away by a tidal wave of sound!

(c) meche kroop



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

BARE OPERA GALA

Kirsten Scott, Suchan Kim, SungWook Kim, and Liana Guberman with Laetitia Ruccolo at the piano

Last night Bare Opera initiated their fourth season with a "let out all the stops" celebration that will linger in our memory for a long time. The singing was beyond wonderful, but before we get to that, we'd like to tell you what made the evening somewhat unusual.

First of all was the audience. Our heart is made very glad when we see young people having a great time at the opera. The guests last night remained totally silent during the performances (in spite of the generous bar and buffet of goodies) but exploded into enthusiastic applause and "bravo"s after each performance. 

If opera is to survive it must be performed with artistry and commitment and it must be taken to venues were twenty-somethings feel comfortable. Last night's "opera party" was held in a fine resonant space, an art gallery on East 46th Street which was generously donated for the use of Bare Opera. There were only a couple chairs and the crowd was happy to stand.

Secondly, Music Director Laetitia Ruccolo, involved the audience in learning the choral parts to "Nessun Dorma" and later to "Toreador". Not only did everyone participate but they sounded great. As any wise teacher/coach might have, the engaging Ms. Ruccolo first taught the pronunciation of the words, and then, the melody. People are learning that opera can be fun!  Perhaps Karaoke parlors will soon include operatic arias!

As to the performances, most of them involved the four mainstays of the company--soprano Liana Guberman, mezzo-soprano Kirsten Scott, tenor SungWook Kim, and baritone Suchan Kim.  Each one is a gem but their ensemble singing revealed genuine unselfish collaboration.

In the opening quartet from Puccini's La Rondine, the four characters offered a toast to love. In the final ensemble, the cast joined in for the "Brindisi" from Act I of Verdi's La Traviata.  There is nothing like a drinking song to put people in a party mood! 

Everything in-between was similarly successful. We have never warmed to John Adams' Doctor Atomic, although we have seen it twice.  But mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter performed Kitty's aria (text by Muriel Rukeyser) with deep feeling and clear enunciation which, taken together, made sense of Kitty's loneliness. More credit for the lovely texture of her instrument!

Delicious pleasure was provided by Ms. Guberman as Poppea and Ms. Scott as Nerone in "Pur ti miro, pur ti godo" from Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea", a work Bare Opera will produce next month. The exquisite harmonies and overlapping lines still resonate in our ears. As a matter of fact, we have an "ear worm".  Not bad for a work written at the very dawn of opera!

SungWook Kim dazzled the audience with a powerful performance of "Nessun dorma", backed by the audience/chorus, Ms. Ruccolo's aforementioned master stroke.

Ms. Guberman and Suchan Kim seemed to have as much fun as the audience in a charming performance of the Papageno/Papagena duet from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Clever use was made of the space as they began from opposite sides of the gallery and moved closer together, each exhibiting a spunky personality.

For vocal blending, nothing can beat the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto. On one side of the gallery, Ms. Guberman enacted the innocent Gilda, appalled by witnessing the Duke's flirtation with Maddalena on the other side of the gallery. As her father, the court jester, Suchan Kim appeared to comfort her distress.  Meanwhile, Ms. Hunter as the tantalizing Maddalena flirted shamelessly with the deceiving Duke, sung by SungWook Kim.  Each character is singing something different but Verdi's writing and the artists' performances brought everything together.

Without missing a beat, the versatile Ms. Guberman changed character and became Violetta as she reconsidered her attitude toward love in "Sempre libera" from Verdi's La Traviata. Sungwook Kim played the offstage Alfredo.

Suchan Kim assumed the appropriate attitude and vocal coloration as he performed the Toreador song from Bizet's Carmen, with dramatic assistance from three adoring ladies (Ms. Guberman, Ms. Scott, and Ms. Hunter) and vocal assistance from the audience/chorus. One truly felt a part of the action!

The penultimate number before the final "Brindisi" came as a complete surprise. Accompanied by Maestro David Rosenmeyer, Argentinian artist Malena Dayen performed "Yo soy Maria" from Astor Piazzolla's 1968 tango operita. We have heard the work before-- but not performed as powerfully as we heard it last night. Bare Opera will produce it in the Spring and we can barely wait.

We left feeling satisfied in head and heart, wanting for nothing. Opera can do that!

(c) meche kroop