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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Justine Aronson, Miori Sugiyama, Michael Brofman, Kyle Oliver, Takaoki Onishi
Art Song is alive and well in Brooklyn, thanks to Michael Brofman, founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Art Song Society, last night winding up its fourth season.  This recital was an installment of The Hugo Wolf Project and comprised a couple dozen of Wolf's Mörike Lieder.  There was something for everyone, ranging from the profound and spiritual to lively paeans to Nature with a few humorous songs thrown in for good measure, the latter being our personal favorites.

Mr. Brofman always manages to attract superb singers that do justice to his programming. Perhaps the most riveting performance was by rising star baritone Takaoki Onishi who is a born storyteller.  Accompanied by the fine pianist Miori Sugiyama, he conveyed all the humor of "Der Tambour" and all the horror of "Der Feuerreiter", arguably two of the finest of the Mörike Lieder.  His technique is flawless and simply dissolved into the drama of the song making everything appear effortless.

Baritone Kyle Oliver has a warm voice with pleasing overtones and a welcoming stage presence.  He carried the lion's share of the program and had gone to the trouble of memorizing the dozen songs and performing them beautifully without a score.

Mr. Brofman worked exceptionally well with him as piano partner, bringing out the nuances of each phrase.    In "Fussreise" we heard the birds singing and in "Auf eine Christblume I" we heard the prancing elf just after a dramatic key change.

We love the way Mr. Oliver sang "Storchenbotschaft" which reminded us of one of Mahler's songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.  Two storks come to visit a shepherd, the punchline being that his wife has given birth to twins. This lied permitted Mr. Oliver to show his storytelling side and it was most effectively charming.

In "Der Jäger" we appreciated the psychological insight--after a quarrel, a man goes off a-hunting, imagining his woman warm and happy while he is wet and miserable.  Then he imagines the converse.  Finally he decides to go home and reconcile.  That tale has a modern feel to it and we relished the irony.

The soprano on the program, Justine Aronson, we are pleased to say, has a most gorgeous instrument-- bright, resonant and appealing.  We are pleased because we will be reviewing her upcoming performance in Rameau's Pygmalion, presented by On-Site Opera.

Ms. Aronson connected well with each song she sang as well as with Ms. Sugiyama, her piano partner. We particularly enjoyed "Agnes", the mournful tale of an abandoned woman.  Another favorite was the humorous tale she told of an elderly woman advising a young one "Rat einer Alten".  Ms. Sugiyama had some elfin music of her own, giving "Elfenlied" a lovely delicate touch.

Our only disappointment was that Ms. Aronson used a music stand.  We are sure there was a good reason for it but it presented a barrier between her and the audience.  It was impressive how much contact she was able to make in spite of the handicap and cannot wait to hear her unencumbered.

The B.A.S.S. has some exciting plans for the next season. We are only going to give you a hint.  Think Gallic.  Think Six.

© meche kroop

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