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 21, 2013


Ken Noda, Matthew Polenzani, Corinne Winters
The George London Foundation for Singers got their recital series off to a stellar start with yesterday's recital.  The "trio" that wowed a "full house" comprised celebrated tenor Matthew Polenzani, rising star soprano Corinne Winters and beloved collaborative pianist Ken Noda in a well-thought-out program that gave each artist a chance to shine.  We know Mr. Polenzani only from his onstage appearances at the Metropolitan Opera and Ms. Winters only from her enchanting performances with the New York Festival of Song.  What a treat to see and hear Mr. P. up close and personal and to hear Ms. W. treat a New York audience to the kind of singing for which she has been acclaimed worldwide.

She has a rich resonance in her voice, belying the claim that petite singers have petite voices.  She performed a set of songs by Reynaldo Hahn and Camille Saint-Saëns in fine French, employing dramatic word coloring and emphasizing the dark richness of her voice.  In "Dis-moi que je suis belle" from Massenet's Thaïs she conveyed the character's insecurity with total conviction.  We loved Rimsky-Korsakov's "Dreams of a Summer Night" in which a young maiden dreams of a romantic awakening.

Mr. Polenzani mastered all the subtleties of "Wie singt die Lerche schön" in a lovely set of songs by Liszt; our favorite in this set was the gorgeous "Die stille Wasserose" in which the silence between the notes maintained the delicate mood most effectively.  In contrast, "Es rauschen die Winde" was an expression of anguish and loss.  The tenor's secure technique allowed him to immerse himself in the text.  Later in "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Massenet's Werther we felt the hero's heart breaking in passionate lament.  An exquisite diminuendo heightened the effect.  In this French-heavy recital we were delighted that Ravel's Cinq mélodies populaires grecques were included.  Mr. P. showed his humorous side in "Quel gallant m'est comparable" and the audience loved it.  They also appreciated his charming informality, waving to his children in the audience.

We literally could not wait to hear the two artists in a duet and were amply rewarded by the entire St. Sulpice scene from Act III of Massenet's Manon.  Manon, that manipulative bad girl, enters the church where Des Grieux is about to take orders and seduces him away from his religious calling.  Although the voices were perfectly matched, poor Des Grieux is no match for Manon's wiles.  The scene was so well done that sets and costumes appeared in our mind's eye.  Well, not the sets and costumes of the current unloved incarnation at the Met but from an earlier production that we loved and lost.

Another duet was performed as an encore--the one from Bernstein's Candide in which Candide and Cunégonde sing their very conflicting views of what their marital bliss would be.  It was lighthearted and amusing and sent the audience out on a (ahem) high note.  Throughout the recital Ken Noda supported the singers with the kind of attention that we must never take for granted.  We particularly enjoyed the way he conveyed the tinkling of the fountain in the opening chanson "Les fontaines" and the many colors in Rachmaninoff's "Dreams".

We want to urge everyone who loves vocal music to get on board for this tantalizing series of recitals in which the George London Foundation pairs an artist who is a recent prize winner with an artist who was awarded a prize in the recent past.  May they continue forever to award prizes to such deserving artists!

ⓒ meche kroop

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