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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Caleb Stokes, Kyle Pfortmiller, Laura Pfortmiller, Jason Plourde, Monica Niemi, Jeffrey Mandelbaum, Jill Dewsnup, Jennifer Moore, Sarah Heltzel
Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble has much of which to be proud.  Dedicated to nurturing emerging opera singers and helping them bridge the gap between academia and stageworthiness, they can rightly take pride in the success of their alumni.  Last night nine alumni of their program took the stage and presented scenes from various operas.  Such talent deserves to be celebrated and the informality of the event felt very much like a celebration.

We were delighted to witness Kyle Pfortmiller's interpretation of Papageno as a tipsy fellow growing tipsier with each verse.  He elected to sing an English version entitled "I'd Give My Finest Feather" which, we were relieved to learn, rhymed, sang well and fit the melody.  No credit was given for the translation but it was a good one and Mr. Pfortmiller used his charming personality well and engaged the audience.  His fine baritone voice is versatile as we learned later in the program when he sang Marcello's duet with Mimi from Act III of Puccini's La Boheme.  Mimi was sung by Laura Pfortmiller and she created a sympathetic character with her generous soprano.

The Act I duet from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos was performed by brilliant voiced soprano Jennifer Moore as Zerbinetta and full-voiced mezzo Sarah Heltzel as the Komponiste.  The voices blended superbly but performing "on the book" always strikes us as a barrier between singer and audience.

The same issue detracted from the final duet and trio from Verdi's Luisa Miller.  Reprising his role as the Father, Jason Plourde was even better than last November when Dell'Arte presented a concert version of the opera.  His fine baritone and sympathetic stance make him a good choice for Verdi!  We well remember coloratura soprano Monica Niemi who performed Luisa in Act I at that same event.  We were pleased to see her transformation into the more mature and troubled young woman of Act III without any loss of luster in her brilliant voice.

Tenor Caleb Stokes sang Rodolfo and, although he sounds fine when pianissimo singing is called for, he seemed to be pushing his voice during the forte passages.  Later in the program, he came across better as the "soft-spoken" Königssohn in a scene from Humperdinck's Königskinder, an opera we adore which was presented by Dell'Arte a couple years ago to great critical acclaim.  Jennifer Moore was perfect for the role of die Gänsemagd employing her high bright soprano to portray an innocent young maiden.

Countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum sang "I know a bank" from Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream; he sang it beautifully and he sang it "off the book", permitting him to enact the role of Oberon and to make excellent contact with the audience.

The final scene of the evening was the final trio from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, in which Ms. Moore reappeared as the bewildered Sophie, Ms. Heltzel as the ambivalent Octavian and impressively large voiced soprano Jill Dewsnup as Die Marschallin.  She seems made for Strauss and Wagner.  The three voices harmonized to perfection conducted by Maestro Christopher Fecteau.

Maestro Fecteau, Founder and Artistic Director of Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, was a busy man all evening.  He accompanied the singers and when he wasn't at the piano he was conducting while Andrew Sun accompanied.  The musical values of the evening were excellent all around.  It was a real pleasure to get a second hearing of these talents on the rise.

© meche kroop

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