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.

Friday, February 14, 2014


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

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