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, May 7, 2013


Peter Dugan, Wallis Giunta, John Brancy
In John Brancy's voyage through Juilliard we have heard him sing the old, the new, the borrowed and the blue; we have even heard him sing Icelandic poetry.  We have never been anything less than thrilled with the authenticity of his performance, not to mention the mature burnished timbre of his baritone voice.

At his graduation recital last night, we were filled with joy for his success but felt twinges of sadness that this six-year voyage is coming to an end.  Mr. Brancy sings from the heart and throws his entire being into every word, every note and every gesture.  He is a consummate storyteller.

The opening story was Britten's tall tale about The Crocodile; Mr. Brancy's delightful sense of humor got the audience giggling.  In an entirely different mood, Kurt Weill's "A dirge for two veterans", a setting of a poem by Walt Whitman about a father and son fallen in battle, gave the artist an opportunity to evoke feelings of grief amplified by a sustained high note.  It also gave collaborative pianist Peter Dugan the opportunity to create drum sounds on the piano, an impressive feat.

We delighted in Mr. Brancy's performance of Ravel's Don Quichotte a Dulcinée which permitted him to create the many faces of Don Quichotte; the idealistic in "Chanson romanesque", the prayerful in "Chanson épique" and the bibulous  in "Chanson à boire".  No matter how many times we have heard these songs they always delight us.  Mr. Dugan created a wonderful contrast in the first song--between Mr. Brancy's long legato vocal lines and the syncopated Spanish rhythms in the piano.  In the second song, Mr. B. gave us an exquisite messa di voce in the final "Amen".

His German was impeccable in Wolf's Morike lieder; no translations were necessary.  We particularly enjoyed "Nimmersatte liebe".

A special added attraction of the evening was the presence of Mr. Brancy's sweetheart, mezzo Wallis Giunta, who joined him for some wonderful duets.  The pair were in perfect harmony in Ralph Vaughn Williams setting of Shakespeare's text "It was a lover and his lass".  But Schumann's "Ich bin dein baum" was the one that touched us most deeply; it is about the mutual dependency of the gardener (Mr. B.) and the fruit-bearing tree (Ms. G.)  Ms. G's pleasing vibrato somehow made us think of a peach tree.  But....the best was yet to come.  Henri Duparc set a text by Pierre-Jules-Théophile Gautier entitled "La Fuite" in which a woman tries to persuade her lover to run away with her in spite of his objections.  She's the romantic and he's the realist.  The acting was so on point that it seemed like a scene in an opera waiting to be written.

Mr. B's dark timbre is very well suited to Russian and we loved what he did with Rachmaninov's "In the silence of the mysterious night"; there was a delicate decrescendo at the end.  Our disappointment at not hearing the Czech language in Cunning Little Vixen was lifted by hearing Dvořák's "My heart is often in pain"; certain motives reminded us of his "Song to the Moon"--absolutely ravishing with its unique sonorities.

After two beautiful Bellini songs with their long vocal phrases and typical arpeggiation in the piano, off came the jacket, out came the stool and Mr. B. enchanted us with his stirring performance of "The Soliloquy" from Carousel.  As if that were not enough, as encore Mr. B. called Ms. G. back onstage for Daniel Hunt's "All the Way".  Never has a pop song sounded so good to our ears!  And it gave Mr. Dugan an opportunity to improvise some great jazzy riffs on the piano.

Mr. Brancy faces future fame and we will feel rather smug telling his fans "I remember him when..."

© meche kroop

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