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, January 23, 2014


 Mary Feminear, Angela Vallone, Michael St. Peter, Kara Sainz
If you've never been to a liederabend at Juilliard let us tell you what you're missing.  You are missing an opportunity to see the opera stars of tomorrow (or maybe next year) in an early stage of development.  They are in no way beginners.  They have been cherry-picked from an enormous field of applicants and given superb instruction and coaching in all aspects of performance.  They are definitely performance-ready and have already been performing around the country and often abroad.

Last night, for example, we heard four fine singers perform songs we love, most of them familiar and a few new to us.  Soprano Angela Vallone opened the program with five songs by Brahms.  With each song her voice opened up and her connection to the text deepened.  She and her sensitive collaborative pianist Jung A Bang made a fine team and exhibited excellent dynamic control.  Her German diction made the words clear.  Our personal favorites were the sad "Mädchenlied" and the charming "Ständchen" which painted such a colorful picture.

Mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz, in fine partnership with pianist Kyung Hee Kim, followed with a set of songs by Fauré .  Together they did justice to "Mandoline", another lied about a serenade that brought a smile to our face. But it was in "Les berceaux" that Ms. Sainz reached a depth of feeling that touched our heart; one could feel the ships rocking in the waves and the cradles rocking at the hands of the sailors' wives.

Michael St. Peter has a sweet lyric tenor that he employed to great advantage in a set of lieder by Hugo Wolf.  We loved the play on the word "elf" in "Elfenlied", a frisky little narrative.  But the tender tale of a man seeking peace at any price with his beloved, "Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen", moved us deeply.  Furthermore we are delighted to report that Mr. St. Peter has mastered the pronunciation of "ich"; as our readers have probably noticed, we are unhappy when a singer pronounces it as "ick", or, worse yet, avoids it altogether.  We didn't even need to look at the libretto to understand his German.  Bravo!  Raymond Wong accompanied beautifully.

The final set of songs by Gounod were performed by Mary Feminear whose rich creamy soprano recently graced the stage at Gotham Chamber Opera.  She has a lovely voice and a facility for French.  In "Sérénade" there was a beautiful arpeggiated melisma on the word "chantez".  There was plenty of excitement conveyed in "Viens, les gazons sont verts!"  Ms. Feminear was accompanied by none other than Brian Zeger himself who coaches the students of the Institute for Vocal Arts.  To hear his piano in "Venise" was to be transported; the minor key and the delicacy of the playing were enough to put us in a traveling mood.

If this description is tempting to you, watch out on the Juilliard calendar for the next Liederabend.  They occur monthly at 6PM on Wednesdays.  A better hour could not be spent--a true mid-week respite.

© meche kroop

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