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.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Julia Bullock (photo by Karli Cadel)
Co-hosted by the beloved Artist Directors of New York Festival of Song (hereinafter referred to as NYFOS) Steven Blier and Michael Barrett and glamorous diva Jessye Norman, a gala evening celebrating Leonard Bernstein was held at the perfectly sized Weill Recital Hall.  After all, our Lenny was founding advisor of NYFOS.  And a celebration it was indeed.

The evening comprised reminiscences by his daughter Jamie Bernstein and many of the artists who worked with him throughout his career and performances by some of them as well.  But for us, the real magic occurred as we witnessed the younger generation, so well-supported by NYFOS,  interpreting his glorious and enduring music. 

The evening opened with an "amuse bouche"; the adorable Lauren Worsham adopted a little-girl persona to sing his l942 "I Hate Music".  The evening ended with the dazzling Julia Bullock singing "Somewhere" from his 1957 musical West Side Story.  We have heard this song countless times but never have we heard it sung with such profound sincerity and lack of artifice--natural and unamplified  with magnificent vocal technique that disappeared into the overall effect.

For the occasion, five highly talented young men were assembled and dubbed "The NYFOS Jets" to sing the hilarious "Officer Krupke", also from West Side Story.  We know these fellas from the opera stage so it was deliriously funny to see them take on Stephen Sondheim's endlessly clever lyrics.  Theo Hoffman had the role of Action, a juvenile delinquent; Tobias Greenhalgh , Officer Krupke; Tim McDevitt, the Judge; Miles Mykkanen, the social worker; and Adrian Rosas, the psychiatrist.

In contrast with this humor was the ironic and dissonant "The Love of My Life" from Arias and Barcarolles, the 1988 work  premiered and recorded by Mr. Blier and Mr. Barrett and sung here by baritone Kurt Ollmann who also sang the soulful "Lonely Town" from the 1944 musical On the Town and joined Judy Kaye for the "Love Duet" from Arias and Barcarolles.

The very funny Ms. Kaye also sang the pungently humorous "I am Easily Assimilated" from the 1956 oft-revised Candide.  This happens to be one of our two favorite English language operas (the other being Gershwin's Porgy and Bess).  We have seen it in opera houses and on Broadway but we had never heard until Monday night the song "We Are Women" which was beautifully sung by Ms. Worsham and the equally delightful Annie Rosen.  It's a marvelous song which we hope to hear many times over.

The renowned Barbara Cook was on hand with reminiscences of her audition for Mr. Bernstein and a song as well--the lovely "Some Other Time" from On the Town.  Further reminiscences were shared by the regal Jessye Norman and the down-to earth Marilyn Horne who told a funny story about Richard Tucker and the Verdi Requiem when Maestro Bernstein was on the podium.  At one point, Ms. Horne burst into glorious song!

Matthew Epstein also shared his memories and Stephen Sondheim sang a gag song he wrote to music appropriated from Kurt Weill on the occasion of the Maestro's 70th Birthday.

It was a splendid celebration of a brilliant man of music who conducted, composed, educated and entranced.

 © meche kroop

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