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, May 23, 2014


Adriana Velinova, Ethan Nanev and Miloslav Antonov

If you thought the treasures referred to Bulgarian music you would be wrong.  We have no doubt that Bulgaria has produced some fine treasures in that category but the treasures we are writing about are the Bulgarian artists who entertained us so royally last night at the Weill Recital Hall.

How many great Bulgarian singers can you name?  Tomova-Sintow?  Dimitrova? Ghiaurov? Kasarova?  Pendatchanska? Stoyanova?  Well, now you have two more to add to the list--soprano Adriana Velinova and baritone Miloslav Antonov, both in graduate programs at Mannes College The New School for Music.  We will discuss the marvelous pianist Ethan Nanev later.

Ms. Velinova has a warm and welcoming stage presence and an instrument as bright and shiny as a new penny but more gold than copper in worth.  She soared through Richard Strauss' "Ich trage meine Minne" and "Heimliche Aufforderung".  There was a lovely contrast between the gentle "L'invitation au voyage" and the anguished "Le manoir de Rosemonde", both by Henri Duparc.

But our favorites were in her final set:  Rachmaninoff's "Ne poj, krasavica, primne", the ultimate heartbreaking song of homesickness, with its very Russian melody and Tchaikovsky's "Skazhi, o chem v teni vetvey".  That these songs were our favorites is is not surprising since the Bulgarian language is close to Russian and singers are often more at home in their native tongue.  Lest you think there was no Bulgarian song on the program, we add that Ms. Velinova sang a charming Bulgarian folk song by Pancho (!) Vladigerov about a youth winking at an unreceptive girl.

Mr. Antonov was at his most impressive in two songs by Franz Liszt which he sang with fine dynamic control and dramatic validity.  In "Pace non trovo" he sang with expansive Italianate passion and a nice change of color in the central more tender section.  In "Die drei Zigeuner" he became a colorful storyteller using ample gesture which compensated for the lack of text in the program.

We also loved his performance of Rachmaninoff's "Spring Waters" in which we could feel the welcome onset of Spring as everything icy is melting.  In a welcome encore, he was joined by Ms. Velinova for"Lippen schweigen"  the romantic duet from Franz Lehar's Die lustige Witwe.

Now, as to that pianist, the versatile Ethan Nanev.  He not only accompanied the singers but also performed Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.  The stately prelude "Promenade" leads to some apt musical descriptions of paintings in a gallery; it was uncanny how well one could see with one's ears!

The first painting "Gnomus" was unsettling with its descending motives and jittery rhythms.  "The Old Castle" achieved a mysterious feel with its minor key and dynamic variety.  But our favorite was the vivacious "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" which we would love to see animated by Disney Studios!

"The Market at Limoge" was filled with activity and Mr. Nanev's fleet fingers did it justice; "Catacombe" was somber in nature.  It is a wonderful piece of music to show off a pianist's skill and artistry in coloring.  Mr. Nanev studied with Pavlina Dokovska who was actually the host for the evening.

Three treasures from Bulgaria!  We in the audience struck it rich!

© meche kroop

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