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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


The Three Spirits:  Lorenzo Jordan, Cecilia Antonelle and Elizabeth Sharp
If you read this in time you can still see New York Opera Exchange's charming production of Mozart's Magic Flute Sunday at 3PM at All Souls Unitarian Church.  You will thank us for the recommendation.  Artistic Director Justin Werner, Musical Director Alden Gatt and Director Andreas Hager are responsible for bringing this work to the stage with a fresh spirit that left the young audience smiling and enlightened as to what opera can be.  It thrilled us to see several hundred young people filling the acoustically excellent church and enjoying themselves so much.

We do not mean to imply that Mr. Hager has burdened the familiar work with a far-out unworkable concept; rather he has mounted a traditional production with thought-provoking psychological insight.  Pamina, sung by the always excellent and beautiful Margaret Newcomb, is a troubled child of divorced parents who, at one point, is ready to kill herself until the three adorable spirits pictured above dissuade her with gorgeous harmony and persuasive words.

Father Sarastro, well sung and acted by bass-baritone Javier Ortiz, is pompous, controlling, self-righteous, sexist and insufficiently protective of his daughter, leaving her vulnerable to the amorous advances of Monastatos, tenor Victor Starsky.  Mother Queen of the Night,  high-flying coloratura soprano Julie Norman, has the advantage of having earned her daughter's love and being eager to help her to a worthy husband; she dispatches the importunate Monastatos with a wave of the hand, injuring him exactly where potential rapists should be hurt.  But, she is undone by her vengefulness when she tries to get Pamina to kill her father.

Instead of casting Tamino as a tall handsome prince, he is seen as a chubby pubescent boy (fine tenor Joseph Palarca) who is still playing with stuffed animals at bedtime.  But when he falls asleep his dream-life is filled with the characters of the opera as he enters the phase of life called "growing up". 

If there is a star-turn in the opera, it is the Papageno of Paull-Anthony Keightley, an Australian baritone who knows just how to use his expressive face and flexible body to create an original version of this lovable character. The "birds" he catches are girls!   He shows Tamino a Playboy centerfold, thus providing the impetus for the boy to shift his attention from stuffed animals to a beautiful girl.  Not to worry about bringing the kids; this centerfold is fully dressed!  Happily, Papageno gets his Papagena at the end, the lovely soprano Anna Richardson.

From here on in, Tamino continues on his journey to young adulthood, armed with his rescue fantasy.  With the help of Papageno, a gift-wrapped magic flute and magic bells, and the guidance of the three spirits, he is able to find the girl of his dreams and endure the trials that will lead to his enlightenment.  To be a man, he must learn to be steadfast, silent and patient.

The three ladies (lots of threes appear in this Freemasonry-inspired tale with libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder) are very nicely sung indeed by sopranos Amanda Matson and Jennifer Russo with big beautiful Helena Brown taking the mezzo part.  Their voices are superbly balanced creating gorgeous harmonies.  Bass-baritone Victor Clark took the role of the Speaker and Scott Ingham distinguished himself as an Armored Man whose tenor soared above the orchestra.

Not only were all the singers first-rate but the New York Opera Exchange Orchestra, comprising 31 astute musicians, were guided into a performance Mozart himself would have approved.  We would be remiss not to mention the principal flutist A. Lish Lindsey.  Magic flute indeed.

Costumes by Joel Yapching were clever.  Papageno was dressed like Tony the Tiger; Tamino wore odd pajama pieces, Pamina wore a black corset and sheer skirt, the Queen of the Night had an other-worldly headpiece, Monastatos wore white athletic gear, and the three young spirits were dressed as school kids with back packs.  We were puzzled that Papagena had a feathered cape and cap when Papageno bore no feathers.  We also wondered why the members of Sarastro's community all wore dark glasses.  There was a scene in which donning the dark glasses symbolized enlightenment; this seemed rather counter-intuitive.

Set design was by Lucas Womack and could not have been more simple--just a bed for Tamino to fall asleep on and later for Pamina to occupy in the room in which she must fight off Monastatos.  The pulpit and the stairs leading up to it were employed as needed.  German diction was mostly good and, if you were German speaking, you could definitely understand without the titles.

We understand that this singspiel was originally created by a talented troupe in a low-rent theater and made a big hit.  Well, we are happy to report that in over 200 years talented small companies are still doing the same thing!

© meche kroop

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Won Whi Choi as Rodolfo, Liana Guberman as Mimi
Our trek to Brooklyn on a rainy Friday night was amply rewarded on two accounts.  For one thing, the performance of Puccini's La Bohème by Loft Opera was novel and gripping; for another, it warmed our hearts on that chilly night to see three hundred young audience members in rapt attention to the trials and tribulations of characters with whom they could identify.  When we could tear our eyes away from the action, we observed the faces of the audience members, laughing at the hijinks of the quartet of hipster/artists in Act I and later in Act IV verging on tears over Mimi's death.

This may be considered a site-specific work, staged as it was in a large chilly industrial space with makeshift lighting.  Audience members drank beer and wine and wandered through the playing area where Rodolfo was sitting at his typewriter and Marcello was painting a mural on the floor.  This clearly set the stage for the drama to follow and evoked feelings of intimacy with the singers.

The musical values were superb all around.  Conductor Dean Buck led his 21 fine musicians in a reduced score (uncredited) that made fine musical sense.  The young singers all had fine healthy voices and keen dramatic instincts.  Soprano Liana Guberman made a touching Mimi as her voice rose to dramatic heights when called for and lowered for moments of intimacy with Rodolfo, performed by the excellent tenor Won Whi Choi who showed a natural ardency of expression and fine technique.

His best bud Marcello was portrayed by the robustly voiced baritone Joshua Jeremiah whose infatuation with the fickle Musetta led to passion and jealous rage.  Musetta was given a believable characterization by Larisa Martinez whose excellent voice delivered "Quando m'en vo" with high style.

Baritone Pnini Grubner made an effective Colline; his farewell address to his overcoat is, for us, one of the highlights of the opera and of the baritone canon.  Joel Herold performed the musician Shaunard who "brings home the bacon"--apparently the only member of the quartet who can earn money.

The roles of Benoît and Alcindoro were combined and played by Paul An.  This was one of many interesting directorial concepts, some of which worked better than others.  The idea of the wealthy landlord stepping out with his tenant's girlfriend really complicates the issue of lover's rage, especially when the tenant can't pay his rent.

Between Creative Director Daniel Ellis-Ferris and Stage Director Laine Rettmer we were unsure who was responsible for the parakeet that was slaughtered but we were assured that no fauna was harmed in the production and it was just an illusion!  But that really was a huge white balloon standing in for the moon that was burst.

We are pleased to tell our readers that there will be three further opportunities to join the six hipsters onstage and to suffer through their difficult lives while listening to Puccini's gorgeous music so well played.  Tonight and next Friday and Saturday nights--if you can still get tickets.  We can guarantee you a fresh look at an old favorite and a truly bohemian experience.  We are not worried about the future of opera when we have companies like Loft Opera!

© meche kroop


George London Foundation Finalists with Nora London--winners all!
The George London Foundationn is a grants program for outstanding young singers from the USA and our neighbor to the north; it was established in 1971 and has, since then, generously given over 300 awards.  Yesterday we witnessed an amazing level of artistry on the stage of an acoustically fine hall in the Morgan Library as the final round of the annual competition took place.  If you missed it, you can purchase a CD from the foundation or watch it streamed at www.georgelondon.org.

Being in the audience meant being treated to a succession of performances-- one gifted young singer after another.  Being one of the judges must have been torture.  How could one pick this one over the other one?  All were superb.  In point of fact, every singer left with a prize, the least of which was a $500 stipend and an Honorable Mention.

Among the seven top prize winners receiving generous grants of $10,000 were bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, a gifted artist who sang "Solche hergelaufner Laffen" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail; he used his large instrument and fine dramatic instinct to create a very funny character.

Soprano Tracy Cox dazzled with "Dich, teure Halle" from Wagner's Tannhäuser and captured the prize for Wagnerian singing; she has a huge voice that absolutely fills up the room and impressive German diction.

Another fine Wagnerian singer, soprano Marina Harris, impressed by varying the dynamics and colors of her voice as she performed "Einsam in trüben Tagen" from Wagner's Lohengrin.

Canadian baritone Cameron McPhail garnered his prize for "C'est moi, Carlos! C'est mon jour supreme" from Verdi's Don Carlos; he has the lovely legato line required by a Verdi baritone and has excellent French diction.

A deeply felt rendering of "Vision fugitive" from Massenet's Hérodiade won a prize for baritone Norman Garrett who sang in superb French with admirable dynamic control.

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, accompanied by her husband, won her prize for "Sein wir wieder gut" from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos.  She is already well known onstage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Counter-tenor Ray Chenez won his prize for "Refugee's aria" from J. Dove's Flight, an opera with which we are unfamiliar.  Notably, his English was comprehensible, something we never take for granted.

Here is what struck us from among the winners of $1000 Encouragement Awards: tenor Anthony Kalil's heartfelt and Italianate "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Boheme; soprano Elizabeth Sutphen's floated top notes, elegant phrasing and expressiveness in "Ah! Douce enfant" from Massenet's Cendrillon; soprano Rebecca Pedersen's voice with its interesting overtones; bass-baritone Gerard Michael D'Emilio's carefully considered "Se vuol ballare" from Mozaart's Nozze di Figaro in which each repeated phrase offered freshness; baritone Brian Vu's energy and personality in "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia; mezzo Julia Dawson's fine coloratura in the cabaletta of "Tanti affetti" from Rossini's La donna del lago; the polished performance and interesting voice of mezzo Catherine Martin in "O mio Fernando" from Donizetti's La Favorita; and the big voice of bass-baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. who gave a highly dramatic performance of "E sogno, o realtà" from Verdi's Falstaff.

We are also inclined to make mention of some performances that impressed us at the Honorable Mention level: soprano Kiri Deonarine dazzled in "The Bell Song" from Delibes' Lakmé; soprano Courtney Johnson whose exciting voice and excellent French brought new life to "The Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust; and baritone Jarrett Ott who sang "Look! Through the port" from Britten's Billy Budd and was totally convincing as a man coming to terms with an unjust death sentence.

And we, reader, must come to terms with the facts that not everyone can be first and that everyone hears things differently.  So...no quarrel with the judges who deliberated long and hard.  We heartily congratulate all the participants.  They are all winners in our eyes and ears.

© meche kroop

Friday, February 21, 2014


Helmut Deutsch and Jonas Kaufmann
Lieder recitals are a tough sell but you'd never have known it last night when rock-star tenor Jonas Kaufmann gave a stunning recital with collaborative pianist Helmut Deutsch.  They held the capacity audience spellbound for two hours and six (yes, SIX!) encores.  Not a whisper was heard, nor forbidden electronic device; even coughs were stifled.  The only sound made by the audience was a bit of program shuffling on two occasions when the printed program did not accurately reflect what was being performed onstage.

You will hear no complaints from us that the program was almost entirely 19th c. German; it was a study in depth, not breadth.  Mr. Kaufmann is a brilliant interpreter, employing his gorgeous instrument to convey the depth of feeling in each song.  He is in complete control of dynamics with the most exquisite messa di voce one could wish for.  His phrasing is elegant and he is in possession of the uncanny skill of coloring his words the way a painter layers paint on canvas.

The first half of the program was all Schumann.  We have written before about Schumann's "year of song writing" as his feelings for Clara were finally permitted consummation.  We don't believe we have heard Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 35 before last night but we would happily hear them again.  The poet Justinus Kerner was an optimist and the songs are mainly sunny in nature.  But our favorite was "Stille Tränen" in which Mr. Kaufmann floated his high notes as if they were balloons filled with helium.

Dichterliebe, Op. 48, composed the same year, 1840, made use of the darker poetry of Heinrich Heine and describes the course of a failed love affair, permitting Mr. Kaufmann to render moods from the initial hopefulness of "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai" to the concluding resolution of "Die alten, bösen Lieder" in which the poet dramatically buries his dreams in a huge coffin which endures a burial at sea.

We are far more familiar with this cycle and have our personal favorites:  "Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne" is filled with excitement; "Ich grolle nicht" is bitter and ironic; "Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen" has a cynical flavor; "Ich hab' im Traum geweinet" is filled with sorrow.  All of these moods and more were captured and embraced by Mr. Kaufmann.

The second half of the program was given over to Wagner and Liszt.  Richard Wagner's 1857 Wesendonck Lieder, Op. 91 with their chromatic harmonies and melodic motives (to be heard in Tristan and Isolde) were performed with incredible sensuality.

Franz Liszt's Tre sonetti di Petrarca, composed in the 1840's to texts by Petrarch, are bursting with passion.  In "Pace non trovo" we were vastly impressed by that beautiful messa di voce and those wild upward skips.

The audience showed the artists a lot of love at the conclusion of the recital and the artists returned the love with a series of six encores.  No one wanted to leave!  It is a rare event in a hall the size of Carnegie Hall to feel such an intimate connection with an artist.  Before the final encore, in a touching moment, Mr. Kaufmann got down on one knee to express his gratitude for the accolades he was receiving.  But ultimately, it was the audience that showed their gratitude for his performance with an endless standing ovation.

© meche kroop

Thursday, February 20, 2014


 Takaoki Onishi and Raquel Gonzalez (photo by Richard Termine)
We are thrilled to the bone after another splendid evening at Juilliard, witnessing the gifted young artists of the Juilliard Opera bring new life to Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.  It's not as if we have anything against the several traditional productions we have seen; it's just that this chamber reduction allowed us to experience the story and the music in a new way.  Discovering something new is always a treat.

Director Mary Birnbaum has mined the story and found gold.  By focusing on the four young people at its core and emphasizing the psychological aspects, she has revealed the opera's heart; it's a coming of age story.  Each singer has plumbed the depths of his/her character and come up with meaningful and dramatically valid choices.

As Tatiana, soprano Raquel González captured all the vulnerability and recklessness of a girl's first love, having no trouble looking about 16 in pigtails.  In the final two scenes, she demonstrated the poise of a woman who has been married to a Prince for perhaps 6 years and has firmed up her boundaries, so to speak.  Although she is still in love with Onegin, she will not dishonor her husband.  She used a multiplicity of vocal colors as well as posture, gesture and facial expression to convey her maturation.  Her fine instrument and diction served the character and was never used to call attention to itself.

Likewise, Takaoki Onishi's creation of the eponymous Onegin was creative and original.  He avoided the clichés of arrogance but evinced a character that was perhaps 19 years old and full of himself in the opening scene when he meets Tatiana.  He thinks he knows himself--a man who could never love and settle down to domesticity.  He is only as honest with Tatiana as he is with himself; he suffers from the blindness of youth. He is not cruel to her; he seems almost avuncular as he advises her to keep a lid on her passions.  He acts out his boredom with country life by flirting with his friend's sweetheart--provocative in the way a thwarted teenager can be.  When the situation goes too far, he is remorseful but he cannot put a halt to the chain of events he has initiated.  By the end of the opera, he realizes he has ruined his life.  The tumultuous emotions never interfered with Mr. Onishi's luscious baritone sound.

Lensky was so stunningly portrayed by tenor Miles Mykkanen that we wept for his youthful benightedness.  At the beginning he is carefree and madly in love with Olga.  He endures paroxysms of jealousy when Olga responds to Onegin's overtures.  Again, we heard an incredibly wonderful instrument that disappeared into the characterization.  His "Kuda, kuda" was imbued with all the colors of the palette of an artist, which, of course, he is.  We heard doubt, fear, regret and passion.  We suffered along with him.

Mezzo-soprano Avery Amereau has a rich caramel voice and turned in a splendid performance as the light-hearted Olga, the carefree younger sister.  During the orchestral prelude, a pantomime of two little girls had established the warmth of the relationship between the sisters as well as the difference of their characters.  We always wondered what happened to Olga after her fiancé was killed in the duel but Ms. Amereau's characterization led us to believe that she recovered from the shock and went on to lead a rather carefree life post-opera!

Because the opera was presented chamber-style we enjoyed the feeling of intimacy that provided and never missed the huge chorus or ball scene in the last act.  Madame Larina and Nanny Filipyevna were combined into one character, portrayed by the excellent mezzo Samantha Hankey with soprano Marguerite Jones as the maid Anya.  For comic relief there was the foppish Monsieur Triquet, portrayed with fine style by the excellent tenor William Goforth.

Bass Önay Köse had a single aria in the final act which was perfectly sung; he was every inch a Prince Gremin who has achieved favor with the court by virtue of his military success.  One could amazingly hear all this in his voice, as well as his tender feelings for his wife Tatiana who has brought youth and joy to his later years.  Bass-baritone Tyler Zimmerman made a fine Captain Zaretsky who was so proud of running a duel according to meticulous standards.  Indeed, there are no small roles!

Musical values were superb.  Youthful conductor Matthew Aucoin surely deserved all the foot-stamping at the end, as much as the singers merited their thunderous applause.  Under his baton and dancing hands, interesting melodic and harmonic elements emerged that generally get lost in a full orchestra in a large house. The reduced orchestration by Jonathan Lyness for the dozen musicians of the Juilliard Orchestra  worked very well for the small space of the theater.

Brian Zeger, Artistic Director of the Marcus Institute, said that this work is not meant as a replacement for the full-length work but rather an intimate look at the piece.  That being said, we will never look at the opera in the same old way, not ever.  And given the choice, we would prefer to see this version with its stunning insights.

We wonder how many operas there are that would lend themselves to such a treatment as Ms. Birnbaum provided.  There would seem to be a plethora, as long as there are musicians to do the reduction and gifted singers who can withstand such intimate scrutiny. 

© meche kroop

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Steven Blier, Michael Barrett, Dina Kuznetsova, Michael Kaiser
Who else but Steven Blier and the New York Festival of Song would undertake the assembling, translating and performing of Polish songs that we have never heard before and may never have the opportunity to hear again?  When we think of Polish music we think of Chopin whose name wasn't even mentioned until the encore.  More about that later.

Two international opera stars graced the stage, Russian-American soprano Dina Kuznetsova and tenor Joseph Kaiser.  We were surprised to learn that neither speaks Polish; you could have fooled us!  It is a language more difficult than even Czech and it was a labor of love to learn to sing it as much as it was a labor of love to get the songs translated.

Mr. Blier's wry comment after the first two songs was "The Agony and the Ecstasy in reverse order".  Indeed!  The first song by Stanislaw Moniuszko, the 19th c. nationalistic composer of song and opera (the Schubert of Poland),  was sung passionately by Mr. Kaiser accompanied by two pianos (Mr. Blier and Associate Artistic Director Michael Barrett).  It was about the ecstasy of uncontrolled love.

The next song, Edward Pallasz' 20th c. lament by the Virgin Mary, here called "The Mother of Mankind", was indeed about the special agony felt by a mother over her son's torment.  Ms. Kuznetsova sang it with deep feeling and exquisite dynamic control; there was a special thrill as her voice bloomed in the upper register.  Troubling harmonies were handled by the two pianists.

Four songs by Grazyna Bacewicz followed, also from the 20th c.  Ms. Kuznetsova's performance of "Boli mnie glowa" (pardon our Polish) or "I have such a headache" injected vocal and gestural variety into the simple repetition of the phrase.  It was the only touch of humor in the program.  Bacewicz' song "The magpie" gave Mr. Barrett a chance to show off his skills.

Mr. Kaiser imbued "Keep speaking to me" by Mieczyslaw Karlowicz with a lovely delicate sound as the poet asks his lover to keep speaking as the breeze bears her words across a great distance, like a caress.  Ms. Kuznetsova sang the gorgeous melodies of the composer's "To the grieving maiden" as the poet reassures the girl that her sorrow will give way to joy as Spring returns.

Seven Yiddish Songs, Opus 13 by Mieczyslaw Weinberg followed.  The introduction was a playful duet sung on "La, la" while the postlude, also sung on "La, la" was painful.  The five actual songs with words comprised four delightful childhood songs with the fifth being the sorrowful song of an orphan; in this song the bitterness and anger were expressed by Mr. Blier's piano. Perhaps Mr. Weinberg seized upon Peretz' poetry since he lost his own family in the holocaust.

More songs by Moniuszko followed.  We loved the pastoral melody of "Evening Song" sung by Mr. Kaiser and Ms. Kuznetsova's performance of "The spinner".  Mr. Blier's piano created the spinning background as Ms. K. told the tale of a young maiden spinning and remembering her departed lover until....a new lover comes along and the thread of her memory breaks.

Composing in the early 20th c., Karol Szymanowski's music was influenced by Wagner and by his travels in foreign lands.  It is both exotic and erotic.  We enjoyed his opera King Roger in Santa Fe and was delighted to learn more about him and his growth as a composer.  His late period songs returned to a more folky style and we loved Mr. Kaiser's performance of "Neigh, my horse".

The final work on the program was "The Piper's Song" by Ignacy Jan Paderewski.  Adam Mickiewicz' text touched us; the piper will stop roaming and singing his lighthearted songs when he finds the person who senses the sorrow underneath; then they will share some tears and he will go no farther.

And now for the Chopin encore.  Well, not exactly.  You see, as Mr. Blier explained, Ira Gershwin once set lyrics to Chopin's E- major Etude.  Mr. Blier composed music for the verse and played both verse and Chopin's "refrain".  Now how often does one get a treat like that?!  Is there anything Mr. B. can't do??

© meche kroop

Friday, February 14, 2014


Gerald Finley (photo by Sim Canetty-Clarke)
"Neither snow nor rain...." prevented illustrious Canadian baritone Gerald Finley nor incomparable collaborative pianist Julius Drake from performing Schubert's heartbreaking Winterreise at Zankel Hall last night.  The same could be said for the intrepid audience which braved snow, slush, ice and rain to attend the final performance of the artists' North American tour.  We have no way of knowing what the first stop was like but the tour ended on a perfect note, so to speak.

The work is one of our favorite song-cycles. This journey into madness with text by Wilhelm Müller, published in 1824, is typical of 19th c. romantic angst; it begins with a young man's disappointment which grows into despair, denial and ultimately depression and longing for death. Schubert elevated it into an iconic work of art in 1827 and died, sadly, a year later.  The music reflects the composer's own feelings about impending disability and death, aware as he was of the trajectory of syphilis.

Mr. Finley and Mr. Drake formed a perfect artistic partnership in their exploration of this heart-rending music.  Both voice and piano expressed the many colors of grief--sadness, nostalgia, regret, false hopes, illusory dreams, and resignation.  Some of the songs are so melodic and well-known that they are still playing in our head.  Many of them are strophic and challenge the singer and pianist to invest each verse with variety; this the artists accomplished successfully.  We loved the quietude of "Der Lindenbaum", the violent contrasts in "Frühlingstraum", the alienation limned by "Der Wegweiser", the energy of "Die Post" and the mysticism of "Der Leiermann".

But the sensitivity of the artists contributed to our better hearing of the lesser known songs in the cycle as well.  Mr. Drake's light touch at the piano was particularly effective in recreating images from nature, of which there are plenty--wind, snow, crows circling, horses hooves, leaves rustling.  We could even feel the trembling of the last leaf left on the tree.

Take note that the cycle is available on recording for those of you who never made it to the recital.  And there is also a youtube video of the artists discussing this work.

© meche kroop


Renée Fleming (photo by Andrew Eccles)

She made us "get" The Star Spangled Banner for the first time in our lives (probably several million other people felt the same way)--and here she is, the world-reknowned soprano and Juilliard alumna conducting a master class at Juilliard, coming across as the big sister next door to whom you look for advice.  Major WOW!  We felt privileged to be in attendance at this instructive afternoon event that was live-streamed on the Juilliard website.

There were four fortunate participants who received the benefit of Ms. Fleming's wisdom and experience.  She began by asking the young artists, graduate students all, to share with the audience the context of their respective arias and ended by telling how impressed she was by the quality of their performances.

There were several themes running through her suggestions.  She encouraged everyone to think more about color and less about volume.  She left each singer with something to work on at home, especially about getting the sound forward and into the "mask".  Less power, less effort, more "spin" seemed to be the watchwords.  A minimal start is best, leaving some room for the voice to expand and blossom.

Opening the program was the fast-rising soprano Raquel González who performed an excerpt from Tatiana's "Letter Scene" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.  Ms. González was assisted in the interpretation, encouraged to show some adolescent insecurity, some introspective searching quality and some awareness of how crazy her character's thoughts were.  She was also advised to show more variety in her movement vocabulary.  The youthful passion was already there and the new ideas made a noticeable difference.

Tenor Miles Mykkanen followed with "Lensky's Aria" from the same opera.  Mr. Mykkanen inhabits this role like a bespoke suit and we are looking forward with great anticipation to seeing him and Ms. González perform an interesting character-centered version of the opera next week at Juilliard.  We witnessed Mr. Mykkanen establish the many tragic dimensions of this character with every phrase seeming to come from deep inside.  During his work with Ms. Fleming he learned to put more variety in the opening repetitions of "Kuda" and to shape the phrases a bit better.  His crescendi became more on the level of resonance than on volume.

How happy we were to see soprano Pureum Jo as the third participant since we didn't get enough of her Tuesday evening.  She worked on "Deh vieni, non tardar" from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.  Her sparkling personality is a perfect fit for Susana and she used her face and gesture in tandem with her voice.  She was encouraged to put more excitement into the recitativo, to make it lighter and "throw it away".  She also worked on putting a smile into the sound and connecting the thoughts.  We hope to hear her perform this role in the future.

The final participant was soprano Hyesang Park who sang "Ah, non credea mirarti...Ah! non giunge" from Bellini's La Sonnambula.  With a bright instrument and some enviable coloratura she gave a dazzling performance which Ms. Fleming worked on fine-tuning.  She asked Ms. Park to produce a slimmer sound and float the notes more.  She further worked on being less effortful and creating more "spin".  The dazzling cabaletta needed to be tossed off--and it was.

Let us also credit the fine accompanists who teamed up so well with the singers: Bretton Brown, Dimitri Dover and Daniel Fung.  There was so much talent onstage!

The afternoon closed with a Q and A in which the students sitting in the audience (and the invited Patrons) were invited to ask their questions which Ms. Fleming answered with grace and modesty.

© meche kroop


Susan Graham
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has paid a welcome visit to New York's Carnegie Hall with Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink on the podium, and glamor girl mezzo-soprano Susan Graham raising the all-Ravel evening to an entirely new level.

The curtain-raiser was the lively Alborada del gracioso, written for piano in 1905 and orchestrated in 1918.  The Spanish flavor was evident from the start with some rather quietly plucked strings emulating the guitar; this gave way rapidly to a raucous tutti in which harp, horns and percussion contributed to the dense texture of sound.  It might have been fun to hear the piano version before or afterward but we'll save that idea for another concert, eager as we were to hear Ms. Graham.

Her hair is the color of honey and her elegant ensemble the color of pumpkin, but it was her voice that evinced the most color as she performed Shéhérezade, three poems for voice and orchestra which premiered in Paris in 1904 with text by Tristan Klingsor. (Do we think he was a Wagner fan?  Yes, we do!)  Ravel and Klingsor were both members of the Apaches, a group of "outsider" intellectuals and artists.  Ravel selected three poems from Klingsor's collection of 100.

The orchestration is just as dense as in the Alborada but Ms. Graham's accurate French elocution and enviable technique sailed right on through, or rather above the huge sound below.  The music is always exotic as the poet waxes rhapsodic over the sights he yearns to see in the Orient.  This armchair voyager reaches a passionate peak and then comes back down to earth as he imagines sharing this voyage with others over a cup of tea.  Ms. Graham filled this voyage with all kinds of lovely colors, wonder and enchantment.  There was an overwhelming feeling of ecstasy as the singer and the orchestra joined forces for the climax.

The shorter second poem describes a servant hearing her beloved's flute playing outside as her master sleeps.  The BSO's own flutist Elizabeth Rowe let us hear what the servant heard. The third poem was about an elusive stranger who appears and vanishes.  Ms. Graham performed both with enormous expressiveness.

The major work of the evening was the ballet Daphnis et Chloé in which the BSO was joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, led by John Oliver. But there were no words, just pure vocal sound.  Two harps, English horn, bass clarinet, alto flute and contrabassoon each contributed its own voice and there were percussion instruments heretofore unknown to us.  All added up to create a work of great majesty.  No wonder that the dancers of a century ago found the work difficult; the rhythms changed frequently.  This is the sort of work that fits Carnegie Hall the best--massive orchestral forces and a large chorus that fill the Isaac Stern Auditorium with that huge sound we love.

© meche kroop

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Pureum Jo, Mario Chang, Alexey Lavrov and Ying Fang in L'Elisir d'Amore (photo by Nan Melville)
A satisfying synergy results when The Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program partners with The Juilliard School.  We fondly recall the operas of seasons past and were sufficiently delighted by last night's entry, a concert of comic operas.  One of the major delights was hearing how the fine Juilliard Orchestra responded to the baton of our beloved James Levine.  Indeed the orchestra occupied the stage with the singers performing in a shallow space in front which unfortunately drowned out the voices on occasion.

We enjoyed lengthy scenes from four comic operas, two famous ones flanking two lesser known entries. The program opened with Act I of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, known in English as The Abduction from the Seraglio, a seraglio being a harem.  Tenor Andrew Stenson made an appealing Belmonte, arriving at Pasha Selim's landhaus to find his dear Konstanze (the always excellent Ying Fang).  Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green turned in an hilarious performance as the gruff Osmin who denies entry to Belmonte.  Tenor Benjamin Bliss portrayed the wily servant Pedrillo in as fine a portrayal of this role as we have heard.  Baritone Jake Alan Nelson seemed to be the only undergraduate on the program but was excellent in the role of Pasha Selim.

Igor Stravinsky's one act satire Mavra brought Daniel Stewart to the podium to conduct the arresting score, notable for its unusual combination of instruments, heavy on the winds and light on the strings.  He was highly successful at bringing out the idiosyncratic harmonies and unpredictable rhythms.  It has been a bit over a year since we saw Mavra performed by the Mannes School of Music and we are compelled to say that the staging and costumes made it seem funnier than last night's performance.  The work was performed in English which we found unsatisfying due to the verbal accents colliding with the musical accents.  Nonetheless, Mary-Jane Lee sang beautifully as Parasha, the wayward daughter of the bourgeois Mother who is moaning about the loss of her cook.  What a pleasure to hear the divine Margaret Lattimore in that role with another fine mezzo-soprano Lacey Jo Benter as The Neighbor.  Mr. Bliss reappeared as the Hussar who gains access to the house by donning drag and getting hired as the new servant.

Benvenuto Cellini may not have the most interesting plot but Berlioz' muscular music is riveting and Maestro Levine marshalled the forces of the large orchestra to great effect.  The brief appearance of superb bass-baritone Brandon Cedel was nearly submerged in the huge avalanche of sound.  But Ms. Fang's focused upper register cut right through in Teresa's aria, as did Anthony Kalil's terrific tenor as the eponymous hero.  Their love duet was, well, lovely.  Baritone Yunpeng Wang provided comic relief as the rejected lover Fieramosca, eavesdropping and slithering along the floor.

The program ended with a scene from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, the scene in which Nemorino purchases his love potion from Dulcamara and proceeds to get inebriated.  Tenor Mario Chang excelled as the unfortunate imbiber with Mr. Green, in cloak and top hat, employing his big booming bass as the wily Doctor D.  Nemorino's rival was sung by baritone Alexey Lavrov who put his own stamp on the role of Sergeant Belcore.  Soprano Pureum Jo sang the role of Adina's friend Gianetta and Adina herself was performed by Ying Fang whose bel canto technique is impressive, filled with thrills and trills and pinpoint scale passages.

Although our preference would have been for a fully staged opera we were pleased to have the opportunity to hear some of our favorite young singers essaying new territory.  And as we said at the start, the orchestra blew us away.

© meche kroop

Monday, February 10, 2014


Bryan Wagorn and Nadine Sierra
Soprano Nadine Sierra has earned her meteoric rise in the operatic firmament and yesterday, in a new-this-year season of vocal recitals has shown her mettle as a most engaging recitalist.  This young woman has it all--a silvery and focused soprano instrument, marvelous musicianship, perfect poise onstage, glamorous good looks and winning personality.

Along with the always excellent collaborative pianist Bryan Wagorn she delighted the audience who could not restrain themselves from applauding after every single song, and once before the song was over.  With great tact, she accepted the applause and moved on.  She is an artist from whom you cannot take your eyes--or your ears!

The first half of the program was Strauss, all Strauss and nothing but Strauss.  You won't hear any complaints from us on that account since it fits her voice like the proverbial glove.  If curator Matthew A. Epstein was responsible for that choice, we thank him.  We can never get enough Strauss. 

First we heard Acht Gedichte aus Letzte Blätter, Op10 with texts by Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg.  Ms. Sierra's fine vibrato and expressiveness well served the passionate "Zueignung", one of our favorites.  The jaunty "Nichts" followed and then the lovely "Die Nacht" on which Ms. Sierra impressed her own stamp of lovely stillness.  She seems to caress each word and lend it the appropriate color, and does she ever have a palette full of colors!  The set closed with the lyrically passionate "Allerseelen", another favorite of ours.  In that set, we particularly enjoyed Mr. Wagorn's pianism in "Die Vershwiegenen".

In the next set, Ms. Sierra's "Ständchen" was an invitation that no one could refuse; the charming text was by Adolf Friedrich, Graf von Schack who also provided the text for the following tender "Breit' über mein Haupt".  Have we ever enjoyed "Morgen" or "Cäcilie" more?  We think not!

The second half of the program began with Cuatro madrigales amatorios by Joaquin Rodrigo Vidre.  So you think you've heard them many times?  Think again.  Ms. Sierra invested them with deep Iberian feeling and rhythm.  The melismatic singing in "De los Alamos vengo, madre" was exceptional.

For Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5, Ms. Sierra was joined by the superb guitarist João Kouyoumdjian.  The text by Ruth Valladares Corrẽa was preceded and followed by the melody without words that allowed us to appreciate the beauty of the singer's tone.

The program concluded with Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, Op.29.  Our favorite of this set was "The monk and his cat".  Ms. Sierra excels at painting a picture, but it is a picture that exists for just that moment in time, making it all the more precious.

Two encores were planned and the audience did not have to beg for them, a practice which we personally find distasteful.  The first was Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" sung as a tribute to Marilyn Horne whom Ms. Sierra credited for all the guidance she received from her.  (Before you ask, we found Ms. Horne's version on youtube.com and yes, it is gloriously inspiring).  The second encore was "Cuando m'en vo" from Puccini's La Bohème, sung in honor of Barry Tucker whose Richard Tucker Music Foundation supports this valuable series.

ⓒ meche kroop


Billy Budd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (photo by Richard Termine)
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is doing a yeoman's job filling the gap left by the demise of the New York City Opera.  Every opera we have seen there has been excellent with Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd perhaps being the best.  We personally go to the opera to be transported to another time and place.  In this case, the transport (to a British man o' war called Indomitable) was so successful that we lived through the trials and tribulations of the morally troubled Captain Vere (tenor Mark Padmore) and the impressed and oppressed sailors in rapid succession.

It is the late 18th c., the Age of Enlightenment, but there is no enlightenment in the British Navy.  As we learn in Scene 2, Great Britain is at war with France.  (Interestingly, the war was an economic one, involving whose ships would be allowed to enter whose ports, creating problems for the Jeffersonian presidency.)  The Brits refer to the French having killed their own king and perhaps planning to kill the British king next.  They want nothing to do with the rights of the common man.

Discipline is unduly harsh with common seamen being impressed by so-called "press gangs", a recruitment procedure common to that era; lashings were meted out for such trivial "offenses" as slipping or not moving fast enough.  Men had to obey mere striplings in fancy uniform who achieved their position by virtue of fortunate birth.  Mere boys were used as "powder monkeys".  This is NOT your HMS Pinafore!

The officers (bass David Soar as Mr. Flint and baritone Stephen Gadd as Mr. Redburn) have further concerns because other ships had suffered mutinies based on this cruel treatment and that is as great a concern as chasing down French ships.

Into this world enters Billy Budd (baritone Jaccques Imbrailo), a merchant seaman (from a ship significantly called "Rights o' Man"!) who seems not to mind being impressed and who shows every evidence of being an enthusiastic and talented sailor.  He is also young, beautiful, innocent and good-hearted, becoming the darling of his shipmates.

His nemesis Master-at-Arms John Claggart (bass Brindley Sherratt) is evil personified.  He delivers a chilling soliloquoy indicating that he is self-aware of his evil.  Iago wanted revenge for being passed over; Richard III wanted power; Claggart is just evil for its own sake and is determined to destroy Billy by entrapment.  Billy's fatal flaw is his innocence; although warned by an older shipmate Dansker (bass-baritone Jeremy White) of Claggart's evil intent, Billy laughs it off.

Billy also suffers from stammering and when called upon to defend himself against Claggart's trumped up charges of fomenting mutiny, he cannot speak and strikes Claggart who dies.  Captain Vere, while knowing that Billy is innocent, must call a court martial and does nothing to save Billy's life.  Just think about the cover-up that would take place in today's navy in the USA!  Under the Articles of War, Billy must hang for striking and "murdering" a superior officer.  No such thing there as "manslaughter".  Hang he does, but not without an aria in which he achieves inner peace and courage.

In later years, Capt. Vere also finds peace as we learn in the epilogue of this stunning 2010 production from Glyndebourne.  Director Michael Grandage and Ian Rutherford, the revival director, brought Melville's tale to vivid life.  We cannot give enough credit to designer Christopher Oram for the incredibly realistic sets and apposite costuming, augmented by Paule Constable's fine lighting.

If we have focused excessively on the story and the production it is in no way critical of Britten's powerful music and the fine voices that inhabited the characters to perfection.  Nor would we shortchange the superlative playing of the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder nor the contributions of The Glyndebourne Chorus.  It's just the power of the drama and its sense of reality that overwhelmed us.  During the interludes we were aware of some very interesting harmonies occurring in the orchestra, especially the chords that indicated Vere's moral indecision.  But we confess that the reality of the production is what we will remember of this incomparable evening.

© meche kroop

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Sarah Pillow, Mary Anne Ballard, Ronn McFarlane
In a season with all hits and no misses, Salon Sanctuary Concerts has presented another stimulating evening that was both entertaining and educational.  In her choice of the library of the Fabbri mansion off Fifth Avenue, Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Gould wisely set the stage for immersion in the world of Renaissance Italy.  The library dates back to that era and was dismantled and shipped to New York in 1915 and reassembled in that very same room.

The theme of the concert was the interface between science and art--more particularly between astronomy and music, all within an historical context.  Narrator Dava Sobel, best known as a journalist and author, spoke about Galileo Galilei, his father and his daughters particularly in connection with the cosmology of that epoch.

Accompanied by Mary Anne Ballard on the viola da gamba and Ronn McFarlane on lute, soprano Sarah Pillow sang some gorgeous songs by Francesco Cavalli, , Barbara Strozzi, Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Giulio Caccini, Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, Henry Purcell and our favorite Claudio Monteverdi whose Lamento d'Arianna was heartbreakingly beautiful.  Readers who are singers will readily recognize the composers whose works appear in many anthologies.  Ms. Pillow sang with vibrancy and an enviable variety of color, tempo and dynamics, making each song touching to the heart.

Instrumental music allowed the two string players to shine with the six-string viola da gamba (cousin to the cello) taking the bass line and the fascinating lute playing the melody.  Merely reciting the names of the composers would make one feel like a bard.

Video artist Marc Wagnon provided the projections from space, some taken from the Hubble Heritage Project, some from NASA.  Indeed the program opened with a film of an astronaut on the moon testing Newton's theory of the speed of falling objects.  And the evening ended out on the street with audience members invited to look into a telescope at Jupiter which performed right on cue, including several of its moons!

We left feeling entertained, enlightened and educated.  Not to mention eager for more programs of such quality.  We enjoyed the celestial harmonies spoken of by Plato and we heard the music of the spheres.

© meche kroop

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Anastasiya Roytman
Amanda Hick
Bryan Davis
Byron Singleton

 A stirring concert of opera arias and duets was held last night in the recital hall of Opera America, a marvelous facility at 330 Seventh Avenue which provides multiple resources for singers and those that love them.

The hall is acoustically live and the voices were big ones which made the experience compelling for the listener but a bit overwhelming at times.  Able accompanist Christopher Wilson moved readily from Wagner to Verdi, from Bellini to Puccini.  Such large voices, however, cried out for full orchestra.

Bass-baritone Bryan Davis opened the program with "Die frist is um" from Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer; he created a riveting portrait of the suffering tragic hero with a large powerful sound.  We would have wished for a bit of variety in dynamics and color in the central section, perhaps a more tender coloring and less volume.  Mr. Davis has performed the entire opera onstage and indeed sang the love duet "Wie aus der ferne" with soprano Anastasia Roytman who was ardent and expressive.

There was more Wagner to come when soprano Amanda Hick sang "Dich teure Halle" from Tannhäuser with a powerful and resonant voice; to round off her fine performance she needed a bit of blending of head and chest voice in the lower register.  Later in the program she sang the difficult "In Questa Reggia" from Puccini's Turandot with tenor Byron Singleton singing the part of Calaf. 

Mr. Singleton has a sweet tenor that could be improved by keeping his head level.  He has a tendency to sing to the balcony (and there is no balcony here!) that tends to stifle the sound a bit.  His voice was quite suited to the role of Mario in Puccini's Tosca and his Italianate sound pleased the ear.  He also sang the role of Gustavo in the duet "Teco io sta" from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera with Ms. Hick as his beloved Amelia.

There was more Verdi to come.  Ms. Roytman and Mr. Singleton sang the tragic deathbed scene "Parigi o cara" from La Traviata with Ms. Roytman creating a sympathetic portrait of the doomed heroine.  A very different portrait was painted by her in "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma.  It is a glorious thing to hear a singer use different aspects of herself to limn different characters.

We are pleased to report that everyone's German and Italian diction was very good.  The only troubling aspect of the evening was the singers' tendency to push their voices.  The hall is small and the voices are large.  Some pianissimo would have been welcome.

© meche kroop

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Pei-Yao Wang and Sasha Cooke
At the start of the recital, Ms. Cooke expressed appreciation to the audience for braving the slushy streets to attend; at the end of the recital, the audience expressed their appreciation for this plucky performer who went on with the Alice Tully Vocal Arts Recital in spite of a cold.  Brian Zeger himself had prepared us in a most charming story (about singers with colds) for an impaired performance but no apology was necessary and no forbearance required.  Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke delivered a perfect performance; we could hear the cold in her voice when she spoke about her songs but not when she sang.

And did she ever sing!  Ms. Cooke (who finished her Master's Degree at Juilliard in 2006 and went on to the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program) has a distinctive sound that is hers and hers alone; one is not driven to compare her to anyone else.  There is a depth and texture to the sound that reminded us of rich dark espresso lightened with cream.  She can spin out a vocal line like nobody's business and is seamless throughout the register.  And there is a satisfying amplitude to the sound.

Moreover she has a poised and polished presence onstage, chatting comfortably with the audience; it makes one feel that the girl next store has amazingly become a superstar.  Her collaborative pianist Pei-Yao Wang was chosen as carefully as the program.  Ms. Wang has the softest hands and the most delicate touch heard in a long while and was always totally supportive of Ms. Cooke and the music simultaneously.

Selections from Hugo Wolf's Mörike-Lieder opened the program; all were beautifully sung but we especially enjoyed the jauntier songs "Fussreise" and "Der Tambour", the charming tale of a young soldier daydreaming about his mother and some good food.  Ms. Wang shone in "Um Mitternacht" establishing the requisite peaceful mood.

We were warned by Ms. Cooke not to try to make sense of Max Jacob's surreal poetry set by Francis Poulenc.  What impressed us was how the music amplified the rhythm of the phrases and the sound of the words.

Two songs by Henri Duparc followed--mysterious, evocative and sensual.  "L'invitation au voyage" and "La vie antérieure" were sung in French as impeccable as her German.

The second half of the program comprised songs in English; regular readers will recall that English is our least favorite language for singing.  That being said, Ms. Cooke made some outstanding choices and sang them so well that we recognized  many possibilities for pleasure.  As she told the audience, all the songs in the second half were composed at the midpoint of the 20th c.  George Crumb wrote some excellent songs for the woman he would later marry when he was but 17 years old.  In "Night" (text by Robert Southey) the piano established a lovely quiet mood and the two artists created quite a bit of variety in the dynamics.  In "Let it be Forgotten" (text by Sara Teasdale) Ms. Cooke gave us a messa di voce of incomparable delicacy.

In Benjamin Britten's A Charm of Lullabies, Op. 41 there is a wide variety of moods, not all soothing.  There was "A Cradle Song" with text by William Blake in which the interplay of piano and voice was arresting.  "The Highland Balou" was sung in a Scottish brogue with a great deal of vivacity.  The delicate "Nurse's Song" was begun a capella with the piano entering and supporting the mood. 

The program closed with selections from Aaron Copland's Old American Songs--the familiar "Simple Gifts", "The Little Horses" with its wildly varying tempi, the peaceful "At the River" and the frisky "Ching-a-Ring chaw".

There is no way the enthusiastic audience would let Ms. Cooke go without a couple encores.  Enrique Granados' "El Mirar de la Maja" demonstrated Ms. Cooke's facility with Spanish passion and William Bolcom's "Black Max" is just a marvelous portrait of a character, his time and his place.

This recital marked the 17th annual Alice Tully Vocal Arts Debut Recital given to promote "exceptionally talented Juilliard singers".  We could not agree more with "exceptionally talented".  We expect no less coming out of Juilliard.

© meche kroop

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Eleftheria Arvanitaki
There is music in her soul and music in her name.  Just try saying it out loud--Eleftheria Arvanitaki.  This international recording star managed--with her warm voice and embracing gestures--to create a sensation of intimacy in the huge Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall.

It is difficult to believe that Ms. A. has been recording for 30 years.  She does not appear to be much over 30 at the present time and uses her stunning Mediterranean looks to good advantage.  She is slim and dressed simply in a way that said "I am here to share my music", rather than "Look at me and how glamorous I am".  It was all about the music!

There is no doubt that the fans hanging over the railing of the balcony were as involved as the elderly man who was dancing up and down the aisles of the orchestra.  The ushers gave up trying to warn people not to take pictures.  Fans stood up, yelled and screamed with their arms overhead applauding wildly, unmindful of the folks sitting behind them.  No one protested. That's the kind of evening it was.

There is no audience like an audience of expatriates and a good guess was that half the audience was Greek and the other half were Greek for the night.  They came to hear Ms. Arvanitaki sing the kind of music she has championed--rebetiko--a fusion of Mediterranian, Greek and Middle-Eastern.  Some of the music was contemporary and some was more along classical lines.  But whatever she sang, she was totally immersed in the music and her connection with the audience.

There was no program and we relied on the Greek friend who accompanied us to tell us what the songs were about.  Like all song, the subject is usually love--romantic love and love of country.  All seemed to spring from the soul.

There were seven musicians onstage--there was a piano and a keyboard, a bass viol, drums of both classical and ethnic variety, a soprano sax, a clarinet, a flute, and several varieties of stringed instruments--guitar, bouzouki, lute, and mandolin; later in the program Ms. Arvanitaki was joined by the well-known Armenian-American composer and oud virtuoso Ara Dinkjian who dazzled with his oud  solo and played another instrument with which we are unfamiliar; it looked like a banjo but did not sound like one.

Harmonies were rather basic in most of the songs, as was the rhythm.  Occasionally those two elements seemed far more complex and novel.  To our 19th c. ears, the amplification of voice and seven instruments was overwhelming. Unlike the thousands of fans in attendance we longed to hear Ms. Arvanitaki unamplified with only a bouzouki or piano as accompaniment.  We find that amplification dulls the colors of a voice.

Nonetheless, it was a wildly entertaining evening and we envied the man who was able to get up and dance.

©meche kroop