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.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Samantha Guevrekian, Zhanna Alkhazova, Kelly Griffin and Kristen Choi

Daniel Cardona, Founder and Artistic Director of The Martha Cardona Theater has a knack for finding gifted young singers who can handle the heavier repertoire.  Last night we enjoyed hearing a group of talented artists with big voices which literally begged for a large hall.  Although accompanied by "only" a piano we could imagine their voices soaring above or tearing right through a large orchestra.  Musical Director Keith Chambers brought out things in his piano reduction that sometimes pass us by when played by a full orchestra.

Only one of the singers was known to us.  Russian-American soprano Zhanna Alkhazova is a veritable force of nature, like a hurricane; never losing her firm grasp on solid technique, she invests each aria with the passion we want to hear at the opera.  We have heard her as Donna Elvira (review can be found by entering her name in the search bar) and was happy to learn that her French in Jules Massenet's "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade was just as fine as her Italian in "D'Oreste, d'Ajace" from Mozart's Idomeneo.  With arias of two different moods, she used her skills at word coloring to fine advantage, tender in one and fierce in the other.

Soprano Kelly Griffin has a substantial instrument as well, singing "Pace, pace mio Dio!" from Verdi's La Forza del Destino with deep involvement, building to a powerful anguished climax.  In "Ritorna vincitor!" from Verdi's Aida, she created a most believable character, tortured by ambivalence.  Would it be love or familial loyalty that wins out? 

The second half of the program was devoted to scenes from Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Soprano Samantha Guevrekian made a sensational Cio-Cio San, a role she will perform this summer at The Glimmerglass Festival.  We predict a huge success, judging by how well she sang  "Un bel di" which she performed without a score, letting the audience into her deluded feelings of hopefulness. 

Fortunately, Kristen Choi, the mezzo who sang Suzuki in the Flower duet, will be in the cast with her.  Ms. Choi has a rich mezzo sound, especially in the lower range and the two of them not only harmonized beautifully but faced each other and created a real relationship.

In the love duet from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Kyle Van Schoonhoven sang the role of Lt. Pinkerton.  He has a sweet tenor with a lovely resonance and gave a well-modulated performance, hampered only by being "on the book".  Having created a considerable amount of engagement in spite of this impediment, we can imagine how superb he will be without it.

In "Io so che sue dolore" Pinkerton is admonished by Sharpless (John Boehr) and in "Addio fiorito assil" he effectively expresses remorse.  Mr. Van Schoonhoven handled the mood changes nicely injecting his voice with different colors.

By the end "Tu, tu piccolo" (Ms. Guevrekian, off the book) we were close to tears, always a good sign for this opera!

We heard more from baritone John Boehr earlier in the evening when he sang "Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen"; although we understood the words, we thought his pronunciation could be polished up a bit.  In the role of Silvio in Leocavallo's "E allor perchè", he was persuasive as he pressured Nedda (Ms. Guevrekian) to run away with him.  They harmonized beautifully in a very sweet ending, hampered only by the presence of music stands.  Readers know how strongly we feel about this; singers are prevented from making contact with each other and with the audience to the fullest extent.  We are sure there are reasons, perhaps lack of time for preparation.  But we stand our ground!

Tenor Thomas Dehorney sang "De' miei bollenti spiriti" from Verdi's La Traviata which we had just heard the night before.  Mr. Dehorney has a lovely quality in his voice and some fine phrasing.  All he needs to do to really shine is to loosen up his body.  He was more expressive in Ernesto De Curtis' "Non ti scordar di me" with an impressive crescendo at the climax.

© meche kroop

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