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 14, 2013


Last night we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of NYFOS.  We celebrated the vast contributions made by Artistic Director Steven Blier and his Associate Michael Barrett.  We celebrated our broadening appreciation of different types of songs.  We celebrated the countless gifted singers and composers who contributed to the success of this venture over the past quarter of a century.

The woman sitting next to me had never heard of Mr. Blier until she read the touching tribute in the New York Times.  It was a "Where have I been all this time?" moment for her and we understood completely.  Mr. Blier's diligence, perseverance and fine ear for a fine song, combined with his delightful sense of humor have combined to create series of recitals (he doesn't like that word) or events that open our ears to the magnificence we may otherwise have overlooked.  His droll narration and his astute choice of artists continue to delight us.

From the rousing ragtime inflected opener "Play That Barbershop Chord" sung by James Martin to the beautifully sustained final note of "If It's Magic", sung by Darius De Haas, we heard a bountiful smorgasbord of songs in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. 

We just about swooned over NYFOS' Comedian Harmonists, five of our favorite Juilliard guys (Kyle Bielfield, Miles Mykkanen, Nathan Haller, Philip Stoddard and Leo Radosavijevic) clearly inspired by the German Pre-WWII close harmony group, singing "Mein Onkel Bumba".  They not only sang but had the choreographic moves down pat.  Another favorite Juilliard singer, the divine Julia Bullock, began the stirring "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free" a capella .  Wow!

Not only were Mr. Blier's current students represented but dear friends and colleagues from the past joined in the fun, and fun it was!  Our favorite LMAO moment was Mary Testa singing "I'm Going to Make You Beautiful".  It was equally thrilling to hear William Bolcom play his own composition "Black Max" with Joan Morris singing; "The Bird on Nellie's Hat" from 1908 was another hoot, as was Andrew Garland's "He Never Did That Before".  Sari Gruber's humor was a bit more on the wry side in "Just Like a Man".

In a more serious vein, we enjoyed Joseph Kaiser in Kurt Weill's "Love Song" and even more in Korngold's "Sommer" with his impeccable German.  Amy Burton and John Musto were on hand and we liked the French riffs in "Le chaland qui passe" but especially Mr. Musto's own "Penelope's Song".  There was pathos to spare in a selection from the recently heard (Opera Hispanica) Maria de Buenos Aires sung with great depth of feeling by Jennifer Aylmer and Ricardo Herrera, whose final diminuendo was stunning.

Judy Kaye took a Gershwin tune "Nice Work If You Can Get It" for a nice spin and Mr. Martin used his powerful voice to read a poem by Langston Hughes "Harlem Sweeties" before singing W.C. Handy's "Harlem Blues".  Some Portuguese songs were performed by Ms. Aylmer, Mr. Herrera, Jeffrey Picón, and Jesse Blumberg (who was reviewed two days ago).  The tables were turned on Smokey Robinson's "My Guy", sung by a male quartet (Mr. Mykkanen, Scott Murphree , Mr. Blumberg and Adrian Rosas who had some low notes that would outdo the tuba).

At the conclusion, the audience jumped to its feet as one and expressed their enthusiasm.  Mr. Blier said he hopes to continue for another 25 years.  To this we say..."Cent'Anni!"

© meche kroop

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