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, April 27, 2013


Bryan Wagorn and Wallis Giunta
Ms. Giunta's flowing strawberry blonde hair was pinned up cleverly to create a 1930's look to match the theme of her recital and her slinky red satin gown.  But there was nothing "pinned up" about her performance.  No indeed!  It flowed seamlessly and dramatically from one song to the next.  It flowed gracefully from German to French to English to Spanish to Italian--all sung with perfect diction.

The theme chosen by this supremely gifted Canadian mezzo was Brecht and Weill's Die Sieben Todsünden with a variety of songs interspersed between verses of what was written as a ballet chanté commissioned by one Edward James, whose wife Tilly Losch was a ballerina.  The plan was to split the character of Anna into two, with Anna I being sung by Weill's wife Lotte Lenya and Ms. Losch dancing the part of Anna II.  Characteristic of Brecht, the text satirizes the bourgeoisie.  One is never quite sure whether Anna I and Anna II are different aspects of the same woman who visits seven cities in the USA, each city used to demonstrate a different sin.

We particularly enjoyed the group of songs chosen to illustrate the sin of sloth.  Weill's "Youkali" was followed by Poulenc's "Hôtel" from Banalités and an extremely funny song called "The Sloth" by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann.  So much textual and dramatic variety were conveyed not only in Sloth, but also in Pride, Wrath, Lust, Greed, Gluttony and Envy.  Mr. Weill's "Die Muschel von Margate", used to illustrate Greed was particularly relevant today.

Perhaps the two songs we enjoyed the most were used to illustrate the sin of lust: Cole Porter's "Love for Sale", given a unique dose of irony by Ms. Giunta and "Al Pensar en el Dueño de mis Amores" from Ruperto Chapí's zarzuela Las Hijas del Zebedeo which evinced the soul of flamenco.

John Lennon's "Imagine" was movingly sung a capella.  Stephen Foster's "The Old Folks at Home" was sung sitting on the edge of the stage with the tenderest of piano work from the estimable Bryan Wagorn who succeeded brilliantly in keeping up with all of Ms. Giunta's many shifts of mood and period.  She did step outside the 1930's a few times, for the Foster, the Lennon, for Schubert's "Der Zwerg", for Monteverdi's "Addio Roma" from L'Incoronazione di Poppea and the zarzuela.

It was in every respect an original and compelling program that showed off Ms. Giunta's linguistic facility and dramatic skills as effectively as her burnished mezzo.  At this level of performance, fine technique can just be taken for granted and the listener can focus on the artistry and communicative skills of the performers.  Ms. Giunta's greatest gift is that she makes each song her own, and always in a way that involves the audience.

We were left wondering what magic is being performed by the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program which seems to regularly turn out such impressive performers.  Ms. Giunta is completing her second year with the program and simultaneously completing an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at The Juilliard School.  She has several recordings to her credit and sings all over the USA and her homeland Canada as well as in Europe.  A stellar career would seem to be a foregone conclusion.

© meche kroop