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 15, 2012


Licia Albanese
What better way to celebrate the 100th birthday of incomparable soprano Licia Albanese than a concert of winners of the 2012 International Vocal Competition presented by the 38 year old Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation.  Signora Albanese herself came onstage to the delight of her adoring public; she was acknowledged not only for her brilliant career but also for the many gifts she conferred on students via master classes, coaching and financial help from the Foundation.  How many times in one's life does one get to honor a great lady on her centennial birthday!

On hand as hosts were WQXR's Midge Woolsey and Robert Sherman.  Wielding the baton for the Musica Sacra Orchestra was Kent Tritle; Arlene Schrut presided over the piano with her customary excellence.  Interspersed between the arias performed by the competition winners were arias by three recipients of the Distinguished Achievement Awards who graciously performed; tenor Michael Fabiano sang "Federico's Lament" from Cilea's L'Arlesiano, mezzo Isabel Leonard performed a song from Lerner and Loewe's Camelot and soprano Latonia Moore sang "Un bel di" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  It is difficult to imagine three finer performances.  Also performing was tenor Ricardo Tamura, recently signed by The Metropolitan Opera, who put heart and soul into "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci".

As far as the competition winners, we applaud the judges for their fine choices.  The Top Award went to soprano Kiri Deonarine who closed the program with the duet "Tutte le feste al tempio" from Verdi's Rigoletto; a special treat was the appearance of her very own father baritone Kim Josephson singing the role of Rigoletto!  First prize was awarded to Zachary Nelson whose sizable baritone and passionate delivery were brought to bear on Giordano's "Nemico della patria" from Andrea Chenier.

Fifth Prize winner Alexander W. Lewis used his flexible tenor and charming personality on the audience-thrilling "Ah mes amis" from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.  Many of the grant winners are known to us and managed to delight us with their continuing growth.  We were particularly struck by the duet "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les Pêcheurs du Perles, sung by tenor Noah Baetge and baritone Takaoki Onishi, whose voices melded mellifluously and sailed above the orchestra.  The same could be said for tenor Eric Margiore and baritone Steven LaBrie who sang "In un coupé" from Puccini's La Boheme.

In Donizetti's "Bella siccome un angelo" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale, baritone Tobias Greenhalgh did a fine job of fooling the eponymous "hero", using a great deal of charm as well as a delicate portamento and liquid trill, not to mention a graceful messa di voce.  Soprano Ashley Harrington and tenor Zach Borichevsky performed the moving "O soave fanciulla" from Puccini's La Boheme in a manner that recreated the entire meeting in our mind's eye.  As Enrico, the brother we love to hate in Lucia de Lammermoor, baritone Nicholas Pallesen did justice to "Cruda, funesta smania".

We also enjoyed being introduced to a few rising stars we hadn't heard before.  Baritone Anthony C. Evans sang "Si può, si può" as a charming introduction to Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.  A century ago, we might have been in the audience of an Italian village, waiting for the visiting players.  Baritone Norman Garrett sang "O Carlo ascolta" from Verdi's Don Carlo with a beautiful legato and deep feeling.  Soprano Kearstin Piper Brown sang "Summertime" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess; she has a lovely "ping" in her voice.  Tenor Jonathan Winell has a pleasing voice and sang "Avete torto" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.

A number of prize winners were unable to appear, due to illness or employment elsewhere.  We particularly missed hearing soprano Audrey Luna, tenor Luigi Boccia and bass Scott Conner, winners of the second, third and fourth prizes respectively,  and grant winners baritones John Brancy and Alexander Hajek.  We wish to congratulate all the winners, the judges for their difficult task and good judgment, the Foundation for making it happen, and above all to honor our dear Licia Albanese who has done so much to keep the operatic tradition going in our country. 

(c) meche kroop

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