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, February 20, 2015


Hea Youn Chung and Angela Vallone

At Juilliard's latest liederabend, with Natalia Katyukova's coaching, all 10 Juilliard artists performed exquisitely, which is not to say that we enjoyed all of them equally. It was the final set of  songs by Joseph Marx, performed by the lovely soprano Angela Vallone in collaboration with pianist Hea Youn Chung, which captured our heart. Of all the composers on the program, Marx is the one most suited to our 19th c. ears and Ms. Vallone sang the songs most expressively.

Not only do we favor the Romantic period but we prefer songs about love and nature to those about war, depression, religion and conflict. Love is something to sing about!  And Marx carried over the mood of the 19th c. right into the 20th.  We particularly enjoyed "Nocturne" with its A-B-A form and lovely writing for piano.

Benjamin Britten set Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, also about love. These belong firmly to the 20th c. and are not nearly as melodic. They were passionately sung by the wonderful tenor Miles Mykkanen with William Kelley at the piano.  Mr. Mykkanen has been extending himself in new directions, which we applaud.  That being said, we most enjoy his particular artistry in songs of humor and irony.

Soprano Razskazoff joined forces with Valeriya Polunina to perform three selections from Olivier Messiaen's Po√®mes pour Mi, written for his violinist wife in 1938.  Ms. Razskazoff has a marvelously poised stage presence and a sizable voice just begging for the opera stage. Of the three selections, only "Le collier" expressed a sentiment to which we could relate.  But Ms. R's voice was thrilling, especially in the extended melismatic passages.

Bass-baritone Tyler Zimmerman utilized his voice and body in a most expressive fashion in two songs by Alexander Zemlinsky--both expressing anti-war sentiments with irony and bitterness. Mr. Zimmerman did his own translations of both. He also sang a trio of songs by Shostakovich--of later origin and lesser melodic interest. Kathryn Felt was his fine collaborative pianist.

Tenor Alexander McKissick performed six Poulenc songs with Ava Nazar as pianist. Poulenc chose to set texts by Apollinaire who survived World War I.  The poetry is surreal and said to reflect the visual arts--i.e. Cubism.  Our personal favorite was "Mutation". Notably, Mr. McKissick did his own translations.

It was greatly appreciated that each singer introduced the set of songs to be sung and told a little about their origins.

© meche kroop

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