|Students at Classic Lyric Arts|
We have spilled plenty of (electronic) ink touting the glories of the total immersion summer programs of Classic Lyric Arts. Ten lucky emerging artists get the chance to study in a small town in France for nearly a month under the tutelage of master teacher Michel Sénéchal. They are immersed in the language and culture and return home transformed by the experience, having reached a new level of proficiency. They are not just singing in French; they are making the French language sing.
Twenty equally fortunate young artists receive similar training in Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region, imbibing pasta and wine along with the grand historical tradition conveyed by master teacher Ubaldo Fabbri.
We have heard and thrilled to the results but never had a clear picture of what this intense training looked and sounded like. Last night's program at Opera America remedied that lack. The result of an inspired collaboration between Artistic Director Glenn Morton and film maker August Ventura (two endlessly positive and creative men whom we are privileged to call friends) we were finally able to appreciate not just the outcome but the process of learning.
Mr. Ventura gave an inspired talk about Mr. Morton's vision, comparing it to that of the Roman god Janus in that he is able to relate to opera's glorious past and also to project into the future what is necessary to protect that patrimony. He showed the three short films he created in which the audience could glimpse snatches of lessons from the great masters and coaches. Mr. Ventura's point about the importance of preservation of a nation's past from apathy and from the danger of destruction by outside forces was very well taken.
But the proof of the pudding, so to speak, is in the singing and several former and present students delighted the audience by demonstrating the facility they gained during their residencies abroad.
Accompanied by the lyrical arpeggios of alumna Laetitia Ruccolo, soprano Dorothy Gal sang Antonia's aria "Elle a fui, la tourterelle" from Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffman in fine French style with the long lyric lines that we so love. Yes indeed, she "made the French sing" with some lovely word coloring.
Soprano Nadia Petrella knocked our proverbial socks off with the eerie first act aria "Regnava nel silenzio" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. The feelings seemed to come from deep within and anticipated Lucia's instability of character. She fearlessly attacked the high notes. This was exactly the way we want this aria to be sung. Michael Stewart was her able accompanist and they worked beautifully together.
Jia-Jun Hong gave a passionate and spot-on performance of the Marcello song "Il mio bel foco", accompanied by Fabio Bezuti. Mr. Hong was seen in the film as one of a group of Chinese singers who attended the Italian program. How pleased we were to learn that Italian opera is held in high regard in China! The students were incredibly enthusiastic about the training they received.
The fine tenor Vincent Festa delivered "É serbato a questo acciaro" from Bellini's I Capuleti ei Montecchi. The performance was filled with "garlic" and we loved the way he handled the upward skips. The cantabile and the cabaletta were equally impressive, as was Ms. Ruccolo's piano.
From Verdi's Ernani, baritone Baejoon Lee sang "Oh de' verd'anni miei", accompanied by Mr. Bezuti. It is a fine sturdy sound and we will look forward to hearing more of Mr. Lee after his summer in Italy. A good Verdi baritone is always welcome.
As a special treat, Mr. Morton took to the piano bench to accompany two international stars, romantic tenor Leonardo Caimi and soprano Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi, on the CLA staff in a coaching capacity.
Mr. Caimi employed his marvelous sound with its generous amplitude and passionate spirit for Cardillo's "Core 'ngrato". His style and fine legato phrasing made us feel as if we were Italian for those few minutes.
Ms. Lombardi achieved the same effect in Tosti's "Amour, amour" but in this case we were seeing France through Italian eyes. It is easy to see why she is famous as an interpreter of Tosti's songs. We have also witnessed her coaching at a prior event and her skills are remarkable.
We refer you to www.classiclyricarts.org where you too may see film clips of this outstanding program.
(c) meche kroop