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.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Benjamin Ian Meyerson, Sultana Shoshani, Laurel Shoshani, Omar Bowey, Patricia Vital, D'Ariel Barnard and Veronica Loiacono

As the final entry in their Summer Festival of the Performing Arts, Opera New York presented an evening of dramatic readings by The Bard along with excerpted arias and duets from operas based upon four of his tragedies. 

Shakespeare's plays have inspired literature and ballets as well as operas; although his oeuvre is renowned for his memorable use of the English language in iambic pentameter, his plays survive very well as operas with stories somewhat altered and in other languages.

Why is that, we may ask.  It would seem that the carefully wrought plots and the fullness of the characters are largely responsible.  Whether sung in Italian or French, we submerge ourselves in his stories and identify with his humanity.

Last night's program opened with Romeo and Juliet.  Artistic Director Judith Fredricks, who also directed the operatic segments of the program, explained to the audience why Juliet is sung in two different languages, adaptations having been composed by different composers.  She further explained that Juliet would be sung by different sopranos according to the type of voice each possesses.

Delightful D'Ariel Barnard used her crystalline coloratura and considerable acting skills to convey a young girl's desperate infatuation in the demanding aria "Je veux vivre" from Charles Gounod's work. 

Then Sultana Shoshani performed the balcony scene with Benjamin Ian Meyerson as her Romeo. She was finely costumed and coiffed for the part and read Shakespeare's words in a way that could be described as musical.  She totally convinced as a young girl in love.  But we enjoyed her even more when she played a scene with Laurel Shoshani as her nurse.  The Bard invested this scene with humor as The Nurse refuses to give Juliet the information she so badly desires.  Later the two were equally fine, but no longer humorous, as The Nurse horrifies Juliet with her tale of Tybalt's death and Romeo's banishment.
Sultana Shoshani and Laurel Shoshani

Soprano Veronica Loiacono had the weightier voice needed for Juliet's "Poison Aria" and admirably lived up to the challenge. Yet another Juliet, Patricia Vital, sang the love duet with rising star tenor Omar Bowey.  There was some marvelous music-making to be heard.  Ms. Vital switched easily to Italian for "Oh quante volte" from Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.  As much as we love Gounod's melodic writing, nothing can equal Bellini's long sinuous lines and Ms. Vital gave an impassioned and musical performance.

Macbeth was given a similar treatment with Sarah Charles' recitation of Lady Macbeth's "Letter Monologue", followed by a sit-up-and-take-notice delivery of similar material by soprano Julia Rolwing whose recitativo was even more convincing.  Her ample voice and committed delivery of "Vieni! t'affretta! " was one of the highlights of the evening.
Julia Rowling
Greg Coughlin impressed with his reading of Macbeth's monologue and Ta'u Pupu'a did likewise with his huge tenor in "Ah! La Paterna Mano", an aria sung by the grief-stricken Macduff.

From Hamlet we heard Ephraim Shoshani (the Shoshani family must be the 21st c. Barrymores!) recite "To be or not to be" in a unique and interesting manner, after which we heard another highlight of the evening--Patricia Vital singing Ophelia's "Mad Scene" from the opera by Ambroise Thomas.  This was probably the best performance we have heard from her.  She created a character both innocent and unbalanced, using her impressive instrument in the numerous runs and trills, showing great bel canto skill.

Patricia Vital

The final section of the program involved readings from Shakespeae's Othello and duets from Verdi's Otello.  Baritone Roberto Borgatti was chilling in Iago's aria "Credo in un Dio crudel" and again in a duet with tenor Joseph DiSalle as the eponymous tragic hero.  Both men have substantial voices and are a pleasure to hear.  Mr. Borgatti is especially attuned to the Italian language and phrasing.

Mr. DiSalle also sang The Love Scene and The Death Scene with soprano Elena Heimur as his Desdemona. She sang a very touching "Willow Song" as well.
Elena Heimur and Joseph DiSalle

Robert Wilson was the versatile accompanist for the vocal part of the evening. The theatrical scenes were very finely directed by Fred Blankfein.

It was a long evening that seemed to go by very swiftly.  We are sorry to see the Summer Festival end but are looking forward to more Shakespeare next month from Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble.  The Bard rules!

(c) meche kroop

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