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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Christopher Colmenero and Vanessa Isiguen
The climax of last night's recital at Mannes College the New School for Music was the first act love duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton "Vogliatemi bene" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  Soprano Vanessa Isiguen and tenor Christopher Colmenero were so fine that we wished they would go on and on into the night.  Ms. Isiguen has an enviable instrument that manages to be bright and rich at the same time.  Mr. Colmenero has a sizable instrument that has the texture of a baritone.  Rarely have we heard a tenor so substantial in the lower register.

Some singers use their bodies expressively and others prefer to keep still and use only their voices.  We confess to a preference for the former and the only thing we would have added to Mr. Colmenero's fine performance would be some gestures of expression.  But that is a personal preference.

By a strange coincidence, the tenor's first set--selections from Brahm's rarely performed Magalone Romanzen-- were performed this season by the Brooklyn Art Song Society and we were delighted to hear them again.  (Readers who missed the review can find it by using the search function.)  Moving readily from the bombastic "Traun! Bogen und pfeil" to the sorrowful "Muss es eine trennung geben" and the hopeful "Wie froh und Frisch", he demonstrated a variety of vocal color.

His second set, by yet another strange coincidence, was "Max's Aria" from Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischutz, the presentation of which by Utopia Opera we had just reviewed.  This is an introspective aria in which Max considers the risks he is taking to win his lady love.  It was finely sung.  Mr. Colmenero's effective collaborative pianist was Alla Michtein.

Later he did justice to Ralph Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel, of which our favorite was "Youth and Love" in which he showed a lovely vibrato in the pianissimo parts.  His English diction was just as good as his German.

Ms. Isiguen did a commendable job with Claude Debussy's Ariettes Oubliées.  She completely captured the French style and the sensuality of "C'est l'extase langoureuse".  Her voice opened up superbly at the top and filled the room with some great overtones.  Sophia Muñoz accompanied in fine style.

Of the three excellent Rachmaninoff songs, we enjoyed the passion of "Francesca's Aria" from Francesca da Rimini but absolutely swooned over the very timely "Spring Waters" in which we could experience the murmuring of the Spring run-off both in voice and piano.

Although we have enjoyed operas presented by Mannes at Hunter College, we have not been on the Mannes campus since our days spent studying composition with David Tcimpidis.  It was good to be back to see the origins of so many singers we have recently admired.  We expect Ms. Isiguen and Mr. Colmenero to join them.

© meche kroop

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