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.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Stars of The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Gala onstage at the Rose Theater

The citizens of Planet Opera gathered yesterday for the 42nd Anniversary of The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. It was a stellar celebration with grants being awarded to a stunning selection of young singers—rising stars, every single one of them. The audience at Rose Theater of Lincoln Center was gloriously entertained.  As if that were not enough, honors were distributed to those who have contributed so much to the field of opera.

Sachi Liebersgesell, President of the Foundation, always eloquent, was rendered nearly speechless when given the honor of receiving the kimono worn by Ms. Albanese when she performed the role of Cio-Cio San. Bryan Hymel, winner from 2008 and master of the French repertoire, shared his recollections of Ms. Albanese and received a Distinguished Achievement Award, as did Ailyn Perez, Nadine Sierra, and Mariana Zvetkova.

Ms. Sierra was put onstage at the age of 16 by Ms. Albanese, singing “O mio babino caro”—and if you have already guessed that she performed the same aria yesterday, give yourself a nice pat on the back. Her voice has become richer and more expansive but she has not lost the pure tone and youthful presentation.

Soprano Ailyn Perez treated us to “Io soon l’umile ancella” from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, sung with generous voice and heart. Ms. Zvetkova gave us a Strauss song with thrilling tone. Both artists revealed anecdotes about Ms. Albanese's effect on their lives.

We were blown away by Lauren Flanigan’s performance as Lady Macbeth. Ms. Flanigan was quite open with the audience about a neurological illness that has damaged her hearing to such an extent that she has been struggling with novel ways to express her creative bent. How she could perform so far beyond excellence is beyond our understanding but she did. Had she not mentioned the deficit we would never have suspected. Let this be a lesson to those who complain about their handicaps; let this be an inspiration to all of us!  

The Lifetime Achievement Award she was given was well earned. Anyone who doesn’t know about her Music and Mentoring House needs to get informed.  Young artists find affordable lodging in Ms. Flanigan’s artistic home, along with socializing with fellow artists, and much needed emotional support.

Every young artist on the program is a star on the rise.  Winners were, as usual, selected from an enormous field.  We were hearing la crème de la crème. Do not look to us for information about the financial awards. We will just tell our readers what struck us according to fach.

Soprano Vanessa Vasquez is winning awards all over the place and deserves every one. Her performance of “Un bel di” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was gloriously intense. We were so wrapped up in the mood she created that technique was forgotten; but upon reflection, there is no doubt that she uses this fabulous instrument with attention to all the fine technical aspects.

We are suckers for Puccini and soprano Karen Barraza performed “Tu che di gel sei cinta” from Turandot,  ushering us into Liu’s very soul. Her singing should have melted Turandot’s icy heart on the spot. A third soprano, Tracy Cantin, sang the bittersweet “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” in fine form.

In the baritone fach, we loved Jared Bybee’s “Vision fugitive” from Massenet’s Hérodiade. We have been hearing quite a bit of Mr. Bybee lately but it is never enough! His creation of a long legato line was masterful and his French is parfait! He was in complete control of tempo and dynamics, both of which he utilized in the service of the aria's changing moods. 

All the baritones were excellent and Norman Garrett could be the Verdi baritone for whom we have been waiting. His “Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima” from Ballo in Maschera was beautifully proportioned and dramatically expansive.

Kidon Choi did a swell job with “O, Mariya, Mariya!" from Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa, an opera with which we are unfamiliar. Mr. Choi’s performance made us want to hear the entire opera.

There were two tenors on the program as well. Alasdair Kent swept us along in a wave of Gallic glory in “Fantaisie aux divine mensonges” from Delibes’ Lakme. The flaw we find in most tenors was blissfully absent. Mr. Kent can spin out a delicate thread of pianissimo perfection. There was no tension, no pushing.  Just gorgeously floated tone.

Yet another terrific tenor delighted our ears with his languorous French line; Fanyong Du performed “Je crois entendre encore” from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurss de Perles, having mastered the diminuendo so beautifully that we were holding our breath.

Bass-baritone André Courville created a marvelous marching military man in “Air du tambour major” from Thomas’ Le Cid, another opera with which we need to get better acquainted. His voice is a substantial one and reaches out to grab you gently by the ears. His dramatic presentation adds to the effect.

Finally, we recall several outstanding duets—and we do so love duets! Soprano Maria Natale and tenor Alexander McKissick brought new life to the tender “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Bohème. There’s a reason certain duets appear over and over again on recital programs. Young artists can put their own stamp on a beloved and familiar work.

In the same fashion, soprano Mia Pafumi and baritone Pawel Konik gave a slightly new sound to “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni—not different enough to upset the balance but different enough in color to make it their own.

Soprano Amber Daniel and mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey (the only mezzo on the program) sang the familiar duet “Sous le dôme épais” from Lakmé. The impressive part of their performance was that neither held back and we heard a glorious richness of consequent overtones that filled Rose Theater with sound. They must have worked together diligently to make this duet their own.

As usual, the excellent host was Brian Kellow and the versatile accompanists were Arlene Shrut and Jonathan Kelly.

This yearly event is always familiar but ever new, restoring our belief in the future of opera!  Bravissimi tutti!

(c) meche kroop

Sunday, October 23, 2016


A toast to The Count of Luxembourg and Other Tales: a Viennese Pastiche

It is amazing what good entertainment can do for one's spirits. The weather outside was damp and uncomfortable last night but when we exited Shetler Studios after this delightful performance, our spirits were as high as the top of the Empire State Building.

New Camerata Opera is a brand new ensemble company comprising eight marvelously talented young artists.  We enjoyed ourselves so greatly that we urge you to book your tickets for next Thursday or Saturday, which will end this successful run.  The performing space is small and there are only a few tickets left. You are guaranteed a bubbly evening listening to aural champagne and watching some hilarious hijinx that have endured a century.

Soprano Alexandra Lang, herself a superb singing actress, conceived and directed this pastiche, putting together music from operettas by Franz Lehar and Johann Strauss. The major storyline is Franz Lehar's The Count of Luxembourg with interpolated songs from Die Lustige Witwe, Die Fledermaus, and Das Land des Lächelns. The most familiar of these songs--"Trinke, Liebchen, trinke schnell", "Brüderlein", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz", "Chacun à son gout", and "Lippen schweigen"--seemed right at home within the storyline.

The storyline is one of romantic matches and mismatches.  Of course, all turns out well in the end, with the help of a deus ex machina or two.  Polish Prince Basil Basilowitsch (Scott Lindroth) is in love with singing star Angèle Didier (Alexandra Lang) whom he cannot marry because she is a commoner.

Marital registrar Pélégrin (Victor Khodadad) cooks up a plan for Angèle to marry a wastrel --the eponymous Count of Luxembourg (Stan Lacy)--who accepts a huge fee to participate in this fake marriage to a woman he never gets to see, with the proviso that they never meet and get divorced after 6 months. Then she will be a Countess and Prince Basil can marry her.

In a subplot, the starving young painter Armand Brissard (Erik Bagger) cannot afford to marry his sweetheart Juliette Vermont (Barbara Porto) but the sale of one of his paintings brings in a tidy sum.  He must keep the affair quiet because of the secret marriage and Juliet gets rather upset when she learns that he has the necessary funds and has not yet proposed.

All the performances were splendid but two stood out-Julia Tang did a fine turn as the dissipated Prince Orlofsky who opened the evening's entertainment.  Eva Parr entered toward the end as one of the "deus ex machina"--Prince Basil's aunt, the Countess Stasa Kokozow who exhibited aristocratic arrogance and charm in equal measure.

Musical values were delightful all around.  Michael C. Haigler conducted from the piano--an excellent arrangement for flute (Jason Brook), violin (Monica Martin) and cello (Keiran Campbell). Although there was at least one number in 2/4 time and a frisky polka, most of the numbers were waltzes and we could barely sit still. Choreography was by Bridget Bose.

The dialogue was spoken in English and the songs were sung in the original German, a choice of which we heartily approve. Translation was by Dr. David Wilson. German diction was faultless but there were good subtitles projected off to the side if one needed a peek..

We don't know what New Camerata Opera has in the works but whatever it is, we plan to be there. As stated in the program they plan to offer a wide range of repertoire both live and through digital media channels. There is a mention of more pastiche (we surely hope so!), innovative presentations of classical vocal music, adaptations of rare operatic works, newly commissioned works, and operas adapted for children.  That's quite an undertaking!

(c) meche kroop

Saturday, October 22, 2016


New Amsterdam Opera Gala Concert at Riverside Theater

What a great variety of singers we heard last night!  Concerts of operatic arias are most fun when there is a variety of artists and the piano accompaniment is supportive. Both requirements were met as the New Amsterdam Opera presented their first gala concert in the comfortable theater belonging to Riverside Church. Their first event, a terrific Fidelio (review archived) was somewhat marred by some pretty awful acoustics.  We hope this theater will be their new home.

The opening duet is one of our favorites--"Belle nuit" from the Venice act of Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. The sweetness of Alyson Cambridge's Giulietta harmonized perfectly with Janara Kellerman's resonant Nicklausse.  Conductor Keith Chambers was the piano accompanist for the evening and set up the feeling of the imaginary gondola.

Another admirable duet was performed by mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh who created a wily Rosina for baritone Suchan Kim's Figaro in "Dunque io son" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. We love the moment when she produces her secret note for Count Almaviva and Figaro gets flummoxed. Ms. McIntosh's upper extension remains the most impressive aspect of her voice with flexibility to spare for the fioritura.

Everything Mr. Kim does is superb. We were impressed with his creation of the deformed character of the eponymous hunchback in Verdi's Rigoletto which he accomplished without any humping or limping.  It was all in the voice! The part of Sparafucile was well handled by burly bass Kevin Thompson who projected just the right degree of menace in "Signor. Va! Non ho niente"

Another duet we enjoyed was "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Coloratura soprano Amy Owens made a sweet Zerlina who was converted from her initial resistance by a most persuasive Don, portrayed by the robust baritone Luis Ledesma whom we so enjoyed in Florencia en el Amazonas.  

He is another artist who seems to do everything well.  His solo "Nemica de la patria" from Giordani's Andrea Chenier was powerful and affecting.

Another fine soloist was soprano Zhanna Alkhazova who created the unhappy character Elizabetta from Verdi's Don Carlo. Hers is a substantial instrument which she colored effectively in her exploration of the character's musings in "Tu che le vanità". We were hoping to hear more of her but that was her only appearance on the program.

From the same opera we heard veteran bass Stefan Szkafarowsky in "Ella giammai m'amo" making the hateful character of King Philip somewhat pitiful. Kevin Thompson sang The Inquisitor but being "on the book" detracted from his ability to connect with Mr. S.

The use of music stands also impaired the full impact of the stunning final trio from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Ms. Owens made an appealing Sophie with mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel a fine Octavian. As the Marschallin, the excellent soprano Kirsten Chambers, whom we so enjoyed in Fidelio, came on too strong for Strauss' delicate writing which Mr. Chambers so elegantly captured on the piano.

There were other examples of performances too intense for the material. We love soprano Jessica Rose Cambio's powerful instrument but found it too heavy for the role of Nedda in the duet "Nedda! Silvio" from Leonavallo's Pagliacci. She also oversang and overacted as Cio-cio San in "Una nave da guerra" with Ms. Heltzel as her Suzuki.

The closing duet was "Tu qui, Santuzza" from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana in which baritone Ta'u Pupu'a Turiddu was a fine match for Janara Kellerman's desperate Santuzza. This redeemed him from his awkward performance as Des Grieux in "Tu, tu, amore, tu" in which he and soprano Kelly Griffin failed to gel as a romantic couple and just seemed miscast.

Ms. Griffin was far better however in "Pace, pace mio Dio" from Verdi's La forza del destino.  Our companion shared our opinion that this opera needs to be produced more often and we were absolutely thrilled to learn that this will be New Amsterdam Opera's next production!

One other duet failed to come together--Ms. Cambridge's Mimi did not connect with Mr. Ledesma's Marcello in "Mimi?...Speravo di trovarvi qui" from Puccini's La Bohême. We could not put our finger on the cause but she was excellent performing "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Russalka, with great depth of feeling.

A late edition to the program was soprano Ashley Becker who sang “Ben t’io invenni…Anch’io dischiuso un giorno” from Verdi's Nabucco.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening was the famed soprano Diana Soviero. We would have been happier had she contributed more to the evening than a hasty recitation of the revised second half of the program.

(c) meche kroop


Cast and Production Team of Ricky Ian Gordon's 27 at New York City Center
(photo by Erin Baiano)

Regular readers will be shocked to learn that we have seen a new opera and enjoyed it.  We have about given up on hearing a new opera that has melodic arias.  That just isn’t going to come out of the 21st c., especially not in the English language. What we have been seeing are “plays with music”.  But the music has been mostly unmusical. Last night we saw and heard an opera in which many positive factors came together to produce an absorbing and enlightening experience. 27 was commissioned by The Opera Theater of Saint Louis in 2014. This New York premiere included a new expanded choral section written just for Master Voices.

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon chose a subject dear to his heart, a subject that inspired him, the life of Gertrude Stein, the renowned writer, poet and art collector, a major influence in the worlds of art and literature.  He avoided the trap of trying to set her texts to music as Virgil Thompson did.  Instead he chose librettist  Royce Vavrek who constructed a conversational libretto of short uncomplicated phrases that did what the English language does best. There was sufficient repetition of phrases to bind the work together in a manner that was reflective of, but not imitative of Gertrude Stein’s writing style. 

Several successive periods of Ms. Stein’s life were illustrated—a creative life that spanned two World Wars.  The theme running through all these epochs was her relationship with the incredibly devoted Alice B. Toklas who performed innumerable functions including emotional and practical support. Their love story takes center stage.

The earliest period illuminated her involvement with young painters like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse; then we visited her salon during the privations of World War I when food and coal were hard to come by. Next we witnessed the post-WWI period of "the lost generation" when her salon was visited predominantly by young writers—“Scotty” Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Finally we visited her during WWII when her political affiliations were suspect.

Mr. Gordon’s music was powerful when it needed to be and gentle when called for. The romantic duets for Ms. Stein and Ms. Toklas were beautifully written as were the ensembles. The music for wartime utilized percussion to evoke the bombing of the Luxembourg Gardens and the anxiety of those Parisians enduring it.

In addition to the compelling story and the exciting music, the casting of the singers and their performances were extraordinary.  As Ms. Stein, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe’s larger than life performance perfectly suited the larger than life character of Ms. Stein. The deep and muscular timbre of her voice and her acting had us believing that she was the ghost of Ms. Stein right there on the stage of New York City Center.

Soprano Heidi Stober perfectly portrayed helpmate and wife Alice B. Toklas.  The opera opens with her alone, after Ms. Stein’s death, knitting a bulky garment, knitting up the scenes of their life together. The opera ends at the same place—a superb framing device letting us experience the memories along with her.  Ms. Stober’s bright soprano was perfect for the part and blended beautifully with Ms. Blythe’s.

The other characters in the opera were portrayed by three fine artists for whom we have nothing but praise.  Tenor Theo Lebow was effective as the timid and bibulous Scott Fitzgerald-- but he was absolutely remarkable as the young Picasso. Thanks to the imaginative costuming of James Schuette, he entered dressed as a matador wearing the head of a bull.

Baritone Tobias Greenhalgh gave an excellent portrayal of the photographer Man Ray but was most impressive as Ms. Stein’s brother Leo who strutted around in an enormous raccoon coat, denigrating his sister’s salon and choice of paintings.

Bass-baritone Daniel Brevik impressed as Matisse and later as Hemingway, dragging an elephant behind him.  Oh yes, did we mention that the work was salted with a great deal of humor?

The funniest scene of the opera involved the “wives of geniuses” who bored Ms. Toklas with their talk of perfume, hats, and furs. Just imagine if you can, these three highly masculine singers in drag, singing an unforgettably clever trio.

A trio of soldiers, portrayed by the aforementioned Mr. Lebow, Mr. Greenhalgh, and Mr. Brevik appeared in various scenes together. Their voices harmonized so incredibly well. Their working so well as an ensemble is understandable, given that they portrayed the same roles at the St. Louis premiere.

The set design by Allen Moyer had a great big “27” to indicate  the address on Rue de Fleurus where all the famous and soon-to-be-famous gathered. The stage was littered with paintings and some chairs. 

Ted Sperling, Artistic Director, conducted the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Master Voices. It is well worth mentioning that the diction of this enormous chorus was so crisp that not a single word was lost. Although there were projected titles, they were superfluous. Everyone’s diction was beyond reproach.

The production was well directed by James Robinson.

Every element worked together to produce a memorable evening about which we had a surprising thought—“I’d see this one again”. We have yet to feel such enthusiasm for a contemporary work.  Our eyes and ears have been opened.

(c) meche kroop

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Jestin Pieper, Laura Strickling, and Christopher Reames (photo by Harold Levine)

Only a couple dozen lucky lieder lovers got to experience the rewarding vocal recital offered by Joy in Singing. Joy in Singing offers awards and performance opportunities to young artists and very entertaining recitals which bring ever more people into the circle of song lovers. Lieder were meant to be heard in such an intimate environment and we felt transported a century back in time when life seemed somehow more artistic.

We were so excited to hear more of soprano Laura Strickling whose Strauss so impressed us last week at the Brooklyn Art Song Society.  And we heard tenor Christopher Reames for the first time; we hope we will have further opportunities since his lovely instrument and lively personality are perfectly suited to the art form.

Ms. Strickling has as much artistry in her presentation as she has beauty in her voice. It's a sizable instrument with a lot of power which she successfully modulated to fit the size of the room. There was but one Strauss song on the program--"Kling", an upbeat affair in which the artist could let loose her amplitude.

But she showed several other aspects of her prodigious talent. She sang Francis Poulenc's "Fleurs" with a depth of feeling and some fine French phrasing. But her favorite was also our favorite; it was Alfred Bachelet's "Chère Nuit" which was popularized by Nellie Melba. It's always such a pleasure to hear French songs correctly sung with evenness of line but without the effeteness that leaves us bored.

Mr. Reames has a sweetness of voice that stood out in his performance of Claude Debussy's "Fantoches". One very fine aspect of this recital was that each performer introduced his/her own songs and shared with us some anecdotal material. As Mr. Reames pointed out, "Fantoches" is part of the 1908 cycle Fête Galant, and the songs recreate the world of Watteau. Mr. Reames' performance allowed him to personalize the characters of the commedia dell'arte --Scaramouche and Pulcinella--in a most charming fashion.

We were also delighted by his warm delivery of "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai", one of our favorite Robert Schumann songs. The weather last night was so warm for October that the song seemed more seasonal than one might have expected.

Gabriel Faure's "Après un rêve" was another hit.  There were also songs in English by Dominick Argento, Sven Lekberg, Samuel Barber, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Benjamin Britten. So many different styles were touched upon within a short hour!

Collaborative pianist Jestin Pieper also had the opportunity to show off his skills as a soloist with two brief Preludes by Alexander Scriabin which looked into the future while keeping the best of Late Romanticism. His pianistic skills added so much to the evening! In Franz Liszt' "Ihr Glocken van Marling" his piano reproduced the sound of churchbells.

It was a most rewarding evening and we can scarcely wait for the Joy in Singing recital at Merkin Hall on November 28th. This should be a memorable event and we urge you to get your tickets early. We attend every year and always find it thrilling!

(c) meche kroop

Monday, October 17, 2016


Mark Padmore, Sir Simon Rattle, and Ensemble Connect

We long ago lost count of how many times we have thrilled to Schubert's Winterreise. The grief in Wilhelm Müller's poetry comes in varied shades of grey and at the end we feel a tremendous catharsis.  We have heard the magnificent cycle sung by the famous and by students at Juilliard. Almost always, the intimacy of the connection has touched us deeply.

There have been only two performances that failed to thrill us.  One involved lots of distraction by a troupe of modern dancers who shall remain unnamed; the other performance was by an elderly croaker who should have known better.

Yesterday's performance at Zankel Hall sounded tempting--an "interpretation" of the work by Hans Zender--composed for tenor and small orchestra.  No doubt the generous applause at the conclusion of the 90 minute work indicated that many people did enjoy the work. We did not.

Admittedly, the orchestral writing was original and involved a plethora of unusual sounds. The instrumentation included accordion, harp, contrabassoon, chimes, two wind machines, alto flute, piccolo, and a great variety of percussion. The young musicians of Ensemble Connect, under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, did what was asked of them. They played up and down the aisles, from the second level, and from outside the doors of the parterre. This was more distracting than artistic, especially when the doors creaked.

Schubert's melodies were altered in multiple ways with motifs often repeated. The various sound effects were meant to reproduce the natural elements mentioned in the text--the posthorn, the crow, the wind. There was much scraping and banging. At one point we heard arhythmic hammering coming from backstage and wondered what was being constructed.

Tenor Mark Padmore, who was "on the book" was requested to shout at times, or whisper, or use sprechstimme. His performance, in any case, was overshadowed by all the elaborate effects. We couldn't keep from thinking of hyperactive children, each screaming for attention.  Obviously Mr. Zender had no idea of "Less is More".

The cycle was completely robbed of its intimacy and seemed wrongheaded to us. We imagine that lovers of modern music who had never heard nor developed affection for the cycle, might have enjoyed it more than we did.  For us it was like adding arms to The Venus de Milo!

(c) meche kroop

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Grant Wenaus, Jesse Blumberg, Scott Murphree, and Vira Slywotzky

Mirror Visions Ensemble is celebrating their 25th Anniversary Season with performances and master classes both in the USA and in Paris. How lucky we feel to have spent an evening with them last night at the Sheen Center, a most suitable venue for a song recital.

And what a recital it was!  The theme was Flights of Fantasy; dreams and imagination were celebrated in protean manifestations. The artistry was incomparable.

The first group of songs dealt with ancient gods; our favorite from this group was Ture Rangström's "Semele" with text by August Strindberg--both early 20th c. artists. Soprano Vira Slywotzky is a truly exceptional singer of great versatility. She used her ample instrument and perfectly calibrated dramatic skills to get across the vindictiveness of the goddess Hera towards the overreaching Semele of the title. Our knowledge of the Swedish language is minimal but it sounded just fine to us.

The next set of songs dealt with Lorelei, the mythical siren who lures men to their destruction.  Always a compelling storyteller and adventuresome linguist, Ms. Slywotzky tackled Zdenêk Fibich's  Czech setting of Heinrich Heine's chilling tale which we had previously heard only in German.

We were on more familiar territory when baritone Jesse Blumberg gave an astonishing account of Robert Schumann's "Waldesgespräch". What astonished us was not just his mellifluous voice but the varied colorations he gave to the seductive horseman and the vengeful Lorelei.  We couldn't help thinking of a certain entitled presidential candidate and hoping he might meet a similar fate.

Ms. Slyvotzky returned with all her cabaret flair to perform the version put forth by the brothers Gershwin. Oh, she was treacherous!  Oh, she was lecherous!  And how cleverly the Gershwins made use of the special qualities of the English language.

MVE has commissioned eighty works over the years, and last night we heard the latest--Scales and Tales by Gilda Lyons whose contemporary take was original and more than usually listenable. Mythological creatures were introduced in texts, one dating from nearly three millenia ago, with the most recent from the mid 18th c.

The strings of the piano were plucked and pounded by pianist Grant Wenaus, producing some of the strangest sounds we have heard coming from that instrument. All three singers took part.  Our favorite was "Unicorn" in which all three singers overlapped lines or sang in unison with strange harmonies and occasional equine snuffling and snorting!

The next segment dealt with birds--the swan and the stork. Mr. Blumberg performed Maurice Ravel's "Le Cygne" and brought out all the gentleness of the Jules Renard text, painting an evocative aural picture for us to visualize. His fine French added to the Gallic flavor and Mr. Wenau's rippling piano lent an aural assist.

The following song, Hugo Wolf's  "Storchenbotschaft" showed off tenor Scott Murphree's artistry. Eduard Mörike's text tells a delightful story of a shepherd learning about the arrival of twins by virtue of a visit from a pair of storks. Mr. Murphree's German was impeccable and his storytelling captured all the humor. We loved Wolf's piano writing here; Mr. Wenau was brilliant.

Even better was Mr. Murphree's performance of Joseph Kosma's 20th c. comic masterpiece "Deux escargot s'en vont à l'enterrement" with text by Jacques Prévert. We don't usually think of tenors having a sense of humor but he sure does. What a charming performance of a charming story!

Ms. Slywotzky and Mr. Wenau almost outdid one another in a gorgeous performance of Debussy's "La flûte de Pan". When we speak of imagination, we must give ample credit to the poetry of Pierre Louÿs! And Ms. Slywotzky's French was perfect. What a versatile artist she is!

There were other delights on the program but let us skip to the 20th c. dragon-ish ending in which all the artists took part.  Lee Hoiby's setting of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" might have been called "Jabberwacky"!  All three singers joined to exhibit mock terror at this ferocious beast.

Wolseley Charles' "The Green-Eyed Dragon" never fails to delight and we enjoyed the singers' taking turns from one verse to the next. These artists are superb in solos but together they are formidable.

The Artistic Director for MVE is Tobé Malawista. The company has achieved great success in developing an audience for art song with their innovative programming.

(c) meche kroop