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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


From under the shelter of the Naumberg Bandshell (which we fought so hard to preserve from demolition some time ago) world-famous soprano Renée Fleming introduced seven dazzling young singers who kept the audience in their seats through an hour of rain and some competing cacophony from another recital taking place just behind at Summerstage.  There is no audience more dedicated than the New York opera fan!  The only disappointment of the evening was its brevity; just after the rain abated, the concert, in honor of the late Richard Tucker's 100th Birthday, was cut short without explanation. Everything we did get to hear was like a generous gift and it felt greedy to have wanted the rest of it.

With seven stars from the Tucker firmament, we could not choose the brightest. The Foundation sure knows how to pick 'em; each one had won an award from The Foundation within the past few years.  All of them are living up to their potential.  Accompaniment by Brian Zeger was just as wonderful as one might expect; he has a great instinct for letting the voice shine forth.

Glamor couple soprano Ailyn Pérez and tenor Stephen Costello led off with the love duet from Act I of Verdi's Rigoletto.  He was seductive and she was seduced, falling under the spell of his ringing tenor and bewitching us with her shy glances and clear bright voice.  They made it sound not only easy but spontaneous.

Wendy Bryn Harmer, fresh from the Seattle Ring, gave a soaring account of Carlisle Floyd's "Ain't it a Pretty Night" from Susannah.

Have we heard a better delivery of Mozart's "Dalla sua pace" from Don Giovanni?  We think not!  Tenor Paul Appleby's bright clear tenor and committed delivery were remarkable and San Diego is fortunate to have him playing Don Ottavio in the near future.  It is the perfect role for him.

Coloratura soprano Erin Morley let loose with some impressive singing in the challenging "Doll Song" from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman.  The devilish upward leaps were astonishingly accurate, even at the very top of the register. Moreover her fine acting garnered giggles from the audience, especially when Maestro Zeger "wound her up".

Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel delivered a fine "Vi ravisso" from Bellini's La Sonnambula.  His gorgeous legato phrasing and evenness throughout the register have surely secured him a place among the group fulfilling their promise.

Mezzo Jamie Barton tackled "Acerba voluttà" from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur as if it were a piece of cake.   Her creamy lush voice and intense stage presence were a joy to behold.

Although we love Ms. Perez and Mr. Costello together with their marvelous chemistry and blending of voices, we were also delighted to hear each one in a solo.  Mr. Costello sang "Parmi veder le lagrime" also from Rigoletto and Ms. Perez ended the evening with a passionate rendition of "Ah, fors'e lui" and "Sempre libera" from Verdi's La Traviata.  She employed her thrilling voice and acting skills to demonstrate Violetta's ambivalence about succumbing to romance.  We were totally won over.

Three cheers for The Richard Tucker Music Foundation for supporting young singers with awards and performance opportunities and for enriching New York's cultural life to such a great extent.  The Foundation was set up in 1975 to honor the late Richard Tucker and his memory is being well-served. Contributions to The Foundation are possible on their website.

© meche kroop

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