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, April 8, 2014


Annie Rosen, Olivia Betzen, Theo Hoffman, Miles Mykkanen, Steven Blier
It's been a scant three weeks since we enjoyed New York Festival of Song's delightful evening "Itinerary of Song" at the National Opera Center.  So why would we brave the nasty April weather to see it again?  Because we were over the moon the first time and yearned to hear those wonderful singers and songs once more.  (To read the original review, please insert "The Singer and the Song" in the search bar.)  The sensational singers from Juilliard tend to graduate or get their advanced degrees and move on, so each performance they give must be treasured.

Since many of these songs are cabaret songs, it was fun to hear the program in the lively and casual atmosphere of Henry's Restaurant on the Upper West Side.  The welcome is warm, the food is delicious and the service unobtrusive, so the audience can feel free to relax and laugh at the humorous lyrics--and laugh they did!

Tenor Miles Mykkanen opened the program with "Sing for Your Supper" from the 1938 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 1938 musical The Boys from Syracuse.  As a matter of fact, the title of this entire series at Henry's is "Sing for Your Supper--NYFOS After Hours".  We admit to some concern about who could ever sing this charming ditty when Mr. M. is engaged elsewhere.  He just oozes personality and good humor from every pore and evokes every nuance from the clever lyrics.

The staging of our other favorite number, Cole Porter's "The Kling-Kling Bird" had the two lovely women in the cast playing the part of the birds admonishing the traveler to stay away from the ladies of foreign lands, one of whom was a cannibal. The traveler at risk was, of course, Mr. M.  We were grinning from ear to ear.

Mr. M. is no less affecting when he is serious; Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Song of the Indian Merchant" was sung in beautiful Russian.

Baritone Theo Hoffman had his turn at humor as well and the audience responded with peals of laughter to his delightful delivery of Noël Coward's "Uncle Harry"; he described in a charming British accent the adventures of Uncle Harry the missionary which led to his departure from an unnamed third world country.  Just a tad naughty.  Wheeee!  In perfect Spanish he showed his serious side in Carlos Guastavino's "Pampamapa".

Mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen gave a moving account of Kurt Weill's "J'attends un navire".  Soprano Olivia Betzen was the perfect choice to sing Ernesto Nazareth's "Nenê" by virtue of being beautiful and scintillating as the song requires.  These two lovely ladies were joined by the men for the hilarious tale of a newly widowed British mum who goes wild in "A Bar on the Piccola Marina" by Noël Coward.

And they also raised their voices together in gorgeous harmony for Wilhelm Stenhammar's song about Turkey "I Seraillets Have".

As is customary, Maestro Steven Blier accompanied on the piano and narrated the evening in his charming style.  Quel raconteur!  Although a few songs from the prior performance were omitted we did not feel cheated.  The joy of the audience was palpable as they surrounded and congratulated the artists.  We walked out into the nasty April weather, now oblivious to it, feeling only the contentment of an hour well spent.

As attached as we have become to these impressive young artists we have confidence that Mr. Blier will come up with other engaging evenings of song.

© meche kroop

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