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, March 21, 2014


Daniel Fung, Önay Köse, Emmett O'Hanlon
The three Juilliard artists performing at the Vocal Arts Honors Recital last night at Alice Tully Hall are all deserving of the honors bestowed.  Bass Önay Köse stepped in for the unfortunately indisposed soprano Hyesang Park and turned in a fine performance; baritone Emmett O'Hanlon is just a compelling stage animal; pianist Daniel Fung, who played for both, gave superlative support.  Both singers were nominated by their respective teachers to audition for a panel of judges; they chose their own material.

Mr. Köse opened the program with Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo by Hugo Wolf.  Mr. Köse employed his sturdy bass in these profoundly philosophical songs with a large sound that filled the hall with vibrations; but he is also capable of delicacy when called for by the text.  His resonant voice reminded us of stout or porter--dark, rich, heavy in texture.  His German diction left nothing to be desired.

From Modest Mussorgsky, he selected three of the Songs and Dances of Death which we heard him perform almost a year ago.  We especially liked what he did with "Lullaby"; he colored the soothing words of Death with gentleness to relieve a suffering child; he colored the mother's voice very differently, showing her panic.  (We recently heard a famous bass sing these songs and were disappointed that he had missed that opportunity.)  We do not recall Mr. Köse using a music stand last year and hope he will not use one the next time.  Our best guess is that it had something to do with his last minute substitution.

In "Trepak", Mr. Fung had his opportunity to show off some very fine pianistic technique.

Baritone Emmett O'Hanlon seemed delighted to present the second and lighter half of the evening and captivated the audience with a full measure of stage presence.  Maurice Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée is frequently done but we never tire of its variety and charm.  Mr. O'Hanlon used his body and gestures to complement his fine voice; he definitely knows how to get a song across.  The audience was already chortling before he opened his mouth for the wonderful "Chanson à Boire".

From Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, Mr. O'Hanlon chose two, of which our favorite was "The Roadside Fire".  It seems as if the lovely text by Robert Louis Stevenson with its rhymed couplets inspired some fine melodic writing.  It's a pleasure to report that Mr. O'Hanlon's English was just as intelligible as his French was in the Ravel.

Lee Hoiby's "Last Letter Home" has a most moving text, enough to convince anyone to be a pacifist.  But we fail to see that Mr. Hoiby's music made it any more moving.  On the other hand, Mr. O'Hanlon's delivery was magnificently intense.

Three Strauss songs closed the program: the beloved "Allerseelen", the soul-stirring "Die Nacht" and "Lied an meinen Sohn" which was new to us.  German diction and phrasing were admirable. In the last song, Mr. Fung created quite a storm in the piano, just as he earlier created  an atmosphere of gemütlichkeit in "The Roadside Fire".

© meche kroop

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