|Percy Martinez, Veronica Loiacono, Therese Panicali, Judith Fredricks, Michael Fennelly, Jodi Karem, Edgar Jaramillo, Roberto Borgatti, Chaz'men Williams-Ali|
Summer has arrived and it is a good time to enjoy our favorite pastimes in less formal settings. Opera New York, founded by diva/director/teacher/coach/impressario Judith Fredricks has a program called "Opera Goes to the Cabaret" in which emerging artists, coached by Ms. Fredricks and accompanied by the amazingly versatile pianist Michael Fennelly, have a chance to show their stuff in an intimate studio environment. The audience has a chance to relax at table seating and sip wine while enjoying the delicious fruits of the hard work of these artists.
Ms. Fredricks has a knack for finding promising talent and bringing out the best in them. What they all have in common is that they sing from the heart--something which Ms. Fredricks emphasizes in her coaching. It's quite a challenge to convey the sense of an aria extracted from an opera and isolated from all staging and costuming. The fact that we felt immersed in the opera when only a small piece was performed is evidence of the success of the approach. It's kind of an artistic hologram.
Take, for example, the terrific tenor Edgar Jaramillo who embodied all the joy of "Recondita armonia" and the painful final words of Mario Cavaradossi facing death in "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca. In the former we could see him comparing Tosca's eyes with those in the portrait he was painting and in the latter we could see the stars and inhale the fragrance of the night. Now THAT"S acting. Add to that his warm rich voice and stress-free technique and there is a performance to remember.
Furthermore, he "plays well with others" as witnessed by the stellar duet "O soave fanciulla" from Puccini's La Boheme that he sang with soprano Veronica Loiacono. This stunning soprano made a fine Mimi and also excelled in her solo "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Russalka. She was riveting in "Regnava nel silencio" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, showing evidence of Lucia's instability. Her wild vocal flights in the cabaletta had us on the edge of our chair. This is a voice just made for bel canto.
Ms. Loiacono also performed the "Barcarolle" from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman with mezzo-soprano Jodi Karem and the two voices balanced perfectly. Ms. Karem appeared later as Delilah in the Saint-Saëns opera Samson et Delilah. Her rich voice was filled with the requisite seductiveness in "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix". In "O don fatale" from Verdi's Don Carlo she successfully conveyed Princess Eboli's remorse.
We had the delightful opportunity to hear a very large voice that sounds great right now but also has room to expand further. Soprano Therese Panicali filled the room with sound in Turandot's aria "In questa reggia" from Puccini's Turandot, and again in "Dich teure Halle" from Wagner's Tannhaüser.
Baritone Roberto Borgatti performed the role of Rodrigo in "Per me giunto" from Verdi's Don Carlo and then dug into the role of Iago in Verdi's Otello; he expressed all of Iago's bitterness in "Credo" and then used his wonderful instrument to insinuate suspicions against Desdemona with Othello portrayed by tenor Percy Martinez in "Si, pel ciel".
Mr. Martinez had some excellent solos as well; he was very intense in "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci showing enough depth of feeling that we could almost forgive Canio for murdering Nedda. He also brought the program to a close with a larger-than-life "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.
There was yet another fine singer on the program--Chaz'men Williams-Ali whose finely textured tenor was just right for "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Boheme. We heard a lovely diminuendo and no strain on the high notes, nor did we hear any as he went from sweetness to arrogance in his excellent "La Donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto.
It is rare to hear a mixed program such as this one in which every singer was excellent. We are sure to be hearing much more of each of them. As if this bounty were insufficient we also heard the astonishing Michael Fennelly perform the virtuoso work "The Nun's Dance" from Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable. It was a frenzy of showmanship.
Ms. Fredricks closed the evening by sharing with the audience her interest in getting cabaret style opera into the schools and communities of the Boroughs of NYC. She has started a crowdfunding event at www.GoFundMe.com/OperaNewYork and we are passing the information along to YOU dear reader who may wish to make a small (or large) donation to make a difference in the cultural life of our town and to help educate young audiences to guarantee the future of opera. Let's do it!
(c) meche kroop