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.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Saturday, March 28, 2015
|Heidi Stober (photo by Simon Pauly)|
Her New York recital debut at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall revealed her artistry as a recitalist. She spoke readily of her joy as mother to a two-year-old and, indeed, based much of her recital on that premise.
Her bright and penetrating instrument is particularly suited to Strauss and her set of songs by that composer comprised songs that referred directly to motherhood like that amusing narrative "Muttertänderlei" in which a mother boasts of her very special child, the worshipful "Meinem Kinde", and "Jungenhexenlied", the charming tale of a young witch racing home to her little boy.
More of a stretch in terms of interpretation were "Ich trage meine Minne" and "Mein Auge" which we had always thought referred more to romantic love. Never mind! It all worked out well and now we have an interesting new way to hear these lovely songs.
Speaking of a stretch, we could not fathom the connection between the five excellent Schubert songs in the next set. Ms. Stober told the audience that her collaborative pianist, the affable and sensitive Craig Terry, came up with the idea of providing a backstory and sequel to "Der Zwerg".
Here-- a "Gute Nacht" from Winterreise. There-- an "Am Feierabend" from Die Schöne Müllerin. Then the lovely waltzy "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" and--as postlude "Im Abendrot" with its profoundly spiritual nature.
Ms. Stober is a born storyteller and each song was compelling and deeply felt. But they did not add up to a narrative. We mostly enjoyed "Am Feierabend" as Ms. Stober colored her voice differently for the young poet/apprentice, his miller/boss, and the miller's daughter.
Four selections from Debussy's Ariettes oubliées were sung in fine French with long languorous lines except for the passionate climaxes. We heard "C'est l'extase", "Il pleure dans mon coeur", "Spleen", and (our favorite) the lively "Chevaux de bois" which injected welcome variety.
Selections from Jake Heggie's From the Book of Nightmares belong to that category of contemporary works that make us wonder why a composer would choose such unmusical poetry (by Vermont poet laureate Galway Kinnell). Heggie's writing for piano and cello was most interesting with David Heiss bringing out the interest in the cello line and Mr. Terry doing the same on the piano. But the vocal line did not "sing" although Ms. Stober brought all her artistry to the table.
The final set had the theme of Ms. Stober's home state--Wisconsin. The most substantial work was Cécile Chaminade's wonderful "Chanson de neige" in which Ms. Stober heightened the emotions almost to the point of irony.
Max Reger's "Die bunten Kühe" brought in some light-hearted humor. Henry Leland Clarke's "Of Cheese" struck us as trivial. Alec Wilder's "Milwaukee" was fun and in the jazz-pop mode.
It was a generous recital given by a beautiful star who comes across as the girl next door. This girl next door graced the audience with yet one more song. As encore, she continued the motherhood theme with "This Child is Born" with music by Thad Jones and lyrics by Alec Wilder.
(c) meche kroop
Friday, March 27, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Saturday, March 21, 2015
|Michael Brofman, Joseph Gaines, Kelvin Chan, Jocelyn Dueck, Kate Maroney, Miori Sugiyama and Justine Aronson|
We have long been fans of Brooklyn Art Song Society (BASS) and have always enjoyed Justine Aronson's scintillating soprano. We were delighted to learn that they were performing in Manhattan and more than happy to brave the final snow of the season, as was the crowd in the packed house.
Usually, the programs are curated by Artistic Director and pianist par excellence Michael Brofman. Last night at the Tenri Cultural Institute, the program was given over to venerable composer Daron Hagen. Understandably, his own compositions occupied the major part of the program with the remainder chosen by him.
We listened to Mr. Hagen's instrumental compositions in advance and liked his writing. Although last night we enjoyed some of his vocal writing, much of it was not to our taste.
The program opened with three selections from Schubert's Winterreise, one of our favorite song cycles. They were performed by tenor Joseph Gaines who has a pleasant sound but indulges in some pretty distracting grimacing. We found his delivery of "Mut!" a bit heavy-handed. The hero of the cycle is meant to be putting up a cheerful front to hide his underlying grief. Mr. Gaines' forceful delivery seemed unidimensional and missed the sorrow.
He was far better in "Die Nebensonnen" and evinced a lovely plaintive vibrato. Miori Sugiyama's collaborative piano was highly sensitive and we particularly enjoyed her work in "Der Leiermann".
What followed was Mr. Hagen's cycle After Words (2013). Speaking from the audience, he told us that this was supposed to be two angels witnessing life on earth and commenting on Winterreise. Sorry to say, but Schubert's masterwork does not require comment! And a work of art should not need an explanation. We failed to see any cohesion that would constitute a cycle.
In the first song, the piano line often echoed Schubert's "Der Leiermann". Further entries in the cycle were settings of texts by Seamus Heaney whose free "verse" did not resonate with us.
We did enjoy the piano writing in "The Rain Stick" and found the vocal line of "Rimas - X" to be quite lovely as Ms. Aronson and Mr. Gaines went back and forth from Spanish to English. Text was by Rubén Dario.
His Larkin Songs (2001) were purported to be about Larkin's life but we had trouble relating to the cycle. There was something about the prose that failed to achieve universality. That being said, we enjoyed the punchy humor of "Interlude #1" expressing irony about the reading public. And we especially enjoyed Mr. Brofman's piano which reflected the delicacy of the vocal line in "Going". But for the most part the verbal cadences of the text did not lend themselves to a musical vocal line.
This cycle was performed beautifully by baritone Kelvin Chan who also did a fine job with Hugo Wolf's Michelangelo Lieder, accompanied by Mr. Brofman's powerful performance on the piano.
In the second half of the program, we heard some of Mr. Hagen's cabaret songs, sung with panache by mezzo-soprano Kate Maroney, ably accompanied by Jocelyn Dueck. She has a nice easy dramatic style and in the duets with Mr. Gaines sounded just fine . Our favorite of Mr. Hagen's works was "You Don't Fall Up You Fall Down" from I Hear America Singing (2014). We also enjoyed Mr. Gaines' performance of "I Believe in Song" also from the same cycle. What a fine motto for an evening of song!
His "The New Yorkers" (2011) attempted to show an Upper West Side couple's development over four decades from "We can beat New York at its own game" to "We can love New York". We might have enjoyed it if there had been more specificity about the couple's experience.
Songs from Benjamin Britten's Cabaret Songs were also on the program--the oft-performed "Tell Me the Truth About Love" and "Funeral Blues".
This is the third time this week that we have attended song recitals in which so-called "art songs" shared a program with "popular songs". This seems like a trend. For our taste we like our "art songs" most when they have endured from the 19th c.
(c) meche kroop
Friday, March 20, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Saturday, March 14, 2015
|Erica Lall and Garegin Pogossian|
|Rachelle di Stasio and Ilya Kolotov|
We enjoy watching young ballet dancers on the cusp of a professional career as much as hearing young opera singers in the same position. Last night at the wonderful Schimmel Center at Pace University we were privileged to see some of the stars of tomorrow. Undoubtedly you will see some of them perform in the near future with American Ballet Theater. The starting point for dancers is far younger than that for opera singers. These talented youngsters are all under 20 years of age.
But just observe how well they handled Act I of Marius Petipa's Le Corsaire in a version by Anna-Marie Holmes! We first caught sight of the elegantly lanky Ilya Kolotov in the role of Lankendem, the slave trader. If there is anyone in this group better suited to the role of danseur noble we would be surprised. He has an exceptional line and was effective in partnering.
Kudos to Rinaldo Venuti who mastered the difficult choreography of the role of Ali the slave, minus the feathered headband. He is slight of build and talented in musicality, with the requisite deftness of phrasing. His rubato led to some breath holding on our part.
Hanna Bass excelled as Gulnare and Breanne Granlund as Medora. The three Odalisques, Wanyue Qiao, Clara Superfine, and Rachelle di Stasio were perfectly in unison.
We consider ourselves well acquainted with Antony Tudor's choreography but somehow missed Little Improvisations. The petite and playful Erica Lall had a wonderful time teasing her partner Garegin Pogossian and making interesting use of a piece of fabric. We would happily see it again.
Excerpts from Merce Cunningham's Duets was staged by Patricia Lent to some "music" by John Cage and showed what the company can do with more modern material.
The program ended with another modern piece that was far more to our liking--Hush with choreography by Stephen Mills to music by Philip Glass. It was here that we witnessed four inspired partnerships: the long-limbed Mr. Kolotov paired well with Ms. di Stasio; Ms. Lall again danced with Mr. Pogossian; Mr. Venuti performed with Ms. Granlund and Tyler Maloney partnered the lovely Ms. Bass. The simple blue leotards were simply effective, courtesy of Ballet Austin and we were tempted to rename the ballet Rhapsody in Blue. It is a piece we'd never seen before and it left us with a fine impression of this young company.
You have two more opportunities to see them perform--today there are two performances, matinée and evening. Seize the opportunity!
(c) meche kroop