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 28, 2013


Prizewinners onstage at Alice Tully Hall
The venerable Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation awarded prizes to a long list of young artists and also gave a generous gift to the opera lovers of New York--a Sunday afternoon parade of prizewinners who got onstage at Alice Tully Hall and gave their all to the grateful and appreciative audience.  Centenarian Signora Albanese came onstage to greet the audience and merited all the adulation she received, not only for her long illustrious career but also for her unstinting efforts to share her skills and wisdom with younger generations of singers.  Administrative/Artistic Director Stephen De Maio put together a superb program; Midge Woolsey hosted and contributed a great deal by giving the audience a concise explanation of the content of the aria and its place in the opera.

All of the singers performed at their peak; each voice we heard was special but a few touched us deeply. Tenor Anthony Kalil blew us away with a goose-bump inducing performance of "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca; he succeeded in making the aria his own.  Baritone Takaoki Onishi, who has been winning awards left and right, sang Rodrigo's arias from Verdi's Don Carlo, building from a subdued start to a smashing and powerful climax. 

We heard two superb Courtneys, both sopranos:  Courtney Mills has a sizable soprano that is very free at the top, supremely suited to "Ritorna Vincitor" from Verdi's Aida; the "junior" Courtney, still an undergraduate but with considerable promise, sang a charming duet from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia: "Dunque io son".  Her Figaro was the charming baritone Tobias Greenhalgh who captured his character's lovable wiliness.

"Oh Mimi, tu più non torni" from Puccini's La Bohème was movingly sung by tenor Aaron Blake and baritone Ricardo Rivera.  Regular readers know how much we love duets!  From the same opera we heard "O soave fanciulla" sung by soprano Marina Costa-Jackson and tenor Dominick Chenes.  Two more duets graced the program: in the "Brindisi" from Verdi's La Traviata, glamorous soprano Mary-Jane Lee sang Violetta with a lovely vibrato; her Alfredo was tenor Viktor Antipenko who has an open generous sound. The flower duet from Delibes' Lakmé is one of our favorites and Shelley Jackson's bright soprano melded beautifully with Shirin Eskandani's dark mezzo.
Soprano Jennifer Rowley has a lovely liquid sound that flows like heavy cream; she sang "Come in quest'ora bruna" from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra.  There were several fine baritones on the program with superb voices whom we will enjoy far more as they develop more contact with the audience.  With the exception of the following, all singers were accompanied by the Opera Orchestra of New York, conducted by Eve Queler.

There were also a number of performances given by recipients of Distinguished Achievement Awards.  We were most impressed by soprano Jennifer Check who has managed to lose weight without losing any of the gorgeous qualities in her voice; her "Vieni t'affretta", accompanied by Jonathan Kelly, from Verdi's Macbeth was memorable.  Kristin Chavez' "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen was steamy and involved some audience interaction; Arlene Schrut accompanied.  Eglise Guttierez sang Puccini's "Oh mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi and Ricardo Tamura sang "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.

"Cent'anni" to Signora Albanese!  Oh wait, she already got there.  Well, here's to another century!

© meche kroop

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