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, November 10, 2014


Ken Noda, Amanda Majeski, and Ryan McKinny
In an all-too-brief George London Foundation for Singers recital at the Morgan Library yesterday we had the opportunity to hear a program in which both singers, soprano Amanda Majeski and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, were able to exhibit their talents in both opera and in lieder.  Significantly, each chose an aria from an opera in which they recently starred.

Ms. Majeski has had quite a success singing the role of Vitellia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito--both at Semperoper Dresden and at Teatro Real in Madrid.  Luckily for us, she performed the character's final aria "Ecco il punto, o Vitellia...No piu di fiori" in which the manipulative woman finally examines her conscience and decides to confess her guilt to avoid the death of her loyal friend Sesto.  Ms. Majeski threw herself into this role heart and soul.

We heard Ms. Majeski when she won a George London award a few years ago; we heard her again in Santa Fe in 2011 when she sang Ottone in Vivaldi's Griselda, in which she was the highlight of a deplorable production. Yesterday she sang with all the involvement that we missed when she stepped into the role of Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Nozze di Figaro.  In this case we found her dramatically moving, tracing Vitellia's evolution from one mood to the next.  Her embellishments were as lovely as they were in the Vivaldi.  We heard a lot of power in the lower register and a big blooming top.

Equally impressive was her encore--"Song to the Moon" from Dvořak's Russalka.  She also sang three songs by Richard Strauss, including our favorite "Die Nacht".  Although suffering from some kind of vocal distress, it was barely noticeable as she employed word coloring and dynamic variety to augment the fine resonance of her sizable instrument.

It was during the Strauss that we most appreciated the artistry of collaborative pianist Ken Noda.  Always supportive and never overwhelming, he seems to sing along with the singer through his fingers.

Also a George London Foundation winner, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny is a most versatile artist, known in many genres but not heard often enough in New York.  He wisely chose to sing "Die Frist ist um" from Richard Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, a role he succeeded in at the Glimmerglass Festival.  We Wagnerphiles in the audience were blown away.  His voice has power and nuance in equal measure; he painted the aural picture of a desperate man at the end of his rope.

He also excelled in the opening piece on the program "Bravo, signor padrone!...Se vuol ballare" which he sang with vocal subtlety and dramatic energy, creating the Figaro character we all know and love.

That is why we were puzzled by his duet with Ms M. "Das war sehr gut, Mandryka".  This scene is the culmination of a stressed-out courtship and we desperately wanted Mandryka to just look at Arabella; if he wasn't feeling it, we weren't feeling it.

Their encore duet from the close of Act I of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel was nicely sung but Mr. McKinny as Bill again did not relate to Ms. Majeski's Julie.  He sang ardently but he sang it to the audience, not to his stage partner.  How odd!

His solo performance of three selections from Schubert's Schwanengesang was powerful; the tender but passionate "Ständchen" was followed by the lugubrious "Der Atlas" and the anguished "Der Doppelgänger". We cannot recall ever hearing an American singer with such perfect German diction.  He should be teaching a master class!  Every umlaut was observed, every final consonant enunciated, every diphthong clear.

Speaking of master classes, we are overjoyed that Mr. Noda supplements his many other duties and accomplishments by giving masterclasses at Juilliard and coaching young singers in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

We are already witnessing the results; anyone under his tutelage bears evidence of his genius.  He gives the piano part the same colors as the singer gives the words.  We are mystified about how this is achieved but the mystery is part of the magnificence.

ⓒ meche kroop

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