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, August 29, 2014


Bryan Wagorn, Erin Morley, Nicholas Pallesen, Ailyn Perez, Andrew Stenson, Stephen Costello, Anthony Ross Costanzo and Isabel Leonard

Thursday was Richard Tucker Day and New York opera lovers lined up to attend the recital at the Ethical Culture Society; they thronged to the stage afterward to congratulate the group of singers, none of whom were a hair shy of stellar.  All were accompanied by the versatile piano partner Bryan Wagorn.

There are advantages and disadvantages to a program of arias without orchestra.  One might miss the orchestral colors but one has an opportunity to focus on the voice.  The voice, so exposed, had better shine-- and these voices surely did.  The other problem is that the artists must jump into the material without the buildup; they have no sets, no costumes, no stage business to help things along.

Last night's singers succeeded on all accounts.  Tenor Andrew Stenson opened the program with a big bang in Tonio's  famous aria from Donizetti's Fille du Regiment.  He sang it with a clear ringing tenor and an abundance of enthusiasm. The high C's were knocked off with ease and the "money note" at the end was sustained so long and so beautifully that we wondered at what underwater sport Mr. Stenson gained his breath control.

Soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer gave a most moving account of "L'altra notte" from Boito's Mefistofele and an equally impassioned "Tu che di gel sei cinta" from Puccini's Turandot.  Her impressively large voice is never harsh or forced and her characterizations were completely convincing.

Nicholas Pallesen employed his fine baritone as Enrico, showing many sides of his character's mood in "Cruda, funesta smania" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.  We heard his anger, his fear and his despair.

Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello have become the #1 opera couple and we love to see them perform together as they did last night in two duets from Bernstein's West Side Story.  They also performed alone with Mr. Costello's fine tenor enjoying a Broadway/Hollywood break in "Without a Song" and "Be My Love".  Ms. Perez was touching in  "Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante".  She absolutely nailed the faith that keeps Micaela's terror at bay.

Soprano Erin Morley, fresh from her brilliant success in Santa Fe as the titular character in Stravinsky's Le Rossignol, switched from Russian to German and was a complete knockout in selections from Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail--the aria "Marten alle Arten"--and in the duet with Mr. Stenson "Welch ein Geschick!"

Mezzo Isabel Leonard took the deceptively simple lullaby "Cancion de cuna para dormer a un negrito" by Montsalvatge and made such art of it that we were close to tears.  We love her singing whatever but in Spanish she is sensational.  We never knew that gal could tap dance but tap dance she did in an hilarious duet with Anthony Ross Costanzo--"I Got Rhythm" by the Gershwins.  Such fun!

Counter-tenor Mr. Costanzo was also heard in "Venga pur, minacci e frema" from Mozart's Mitridate.  We are extremely fond of Mr. Costanzo's unusual voice.  There aren't many around like him!

All of these sensational artists have been recipients of awards and grants from The Richard Tucker Foundation.  They are all having brilliant careers.  Foundation support is instrumental in getting a career off the ground.  Let's have a big round of applause for the RTF!

© meche kroop

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