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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


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

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