|International Vocal Arts Institute at Mannes College, the New School for Music
We love getting acquainted with programs that share our interest in promoting the growth and development of young singers. The International Vocal Arts Institute is holding their program in New York for the first time, in partnership with Mannes College. And a fine partnership it is!
IVAI was brought into being in 1986 by Co-Founders Joan Dornemann as Artistic Director and Paul Nadler as Music Director--another fine partnership. Ms. Dornemann's coaching is legendary and Maestro Nadler's conducting has delighted us often at the Met, particularly in Dvorak's Rusalka and Gounod's Roméo et Juiliette.
For two weeks the students, chosen by audition, receive daily master classes by some of the finest teachers in New York (Ken Benson and Ira Siff among many others) as well as several performance opportunities. Last night's recital of arias, duets and a trio demonstrated some fine work by students who have been working on technique, role preparation and interpretation, diction and acting, as well as career development.
All the singers were well worth hearing but a few stood out for various reason. The very young soprano Sandra Hamaoui, partnered by tenor Evanivaldo Correa Serrano, performed "Nuit d'hyménée" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with such an abundance of adolescent passion that we became oblivious to matters of technique. Her bright soprano melded perfectly with Mr. Serrano's robust tenor and the acting was electrifying. What a convincing portrayal! There was no hint of self-consciousness or staginess. Regarding Mr. Serrano, he sounds like the product of that fine Mexican teaching that brought us Rolando Villazon.
In terms of versatility, we were highly impressed by another Mexican artist--mezzo-soprano Zayra Ruiz who knocked our socks off with our favorite zarzuela number "Las Carceleras" from Ruperto Chapi's Las Hijas del Zebedeo. Her performance was compelling and full of sazón. Could this be the same Zayra Ruiz who played the ambivalent Dorabella being wooed by Guglielmo (the fine ardent baritone Lawson Anderson) in the duet "Il core vi dono" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte? Apparently she is one of those special singers who can readily slip into and out of a role.
Matching her in versatility was soprano Antonina Chekhovskaya who used her generous instrument and finely tuned dramatic sense to portray a reckless young woman and a wise and experienced aristocrat. Her Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin was filled with passion and trepidation; she employed facial and body gesture along with word coloring and dynamic variety to make this long scene seem brief. Later, she distinguished herself with her regal and generous bearing as the Marschallin in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.
The final trio "Hab' mir's gelobt" is one of the most gorgeous trios ever written with each character expressing a different set of emotions on a different vocal line--everything coming together in a dense and satisfying texture. Gina Perregrino's lovely mezzo and Meechot Marrero's light soprano added to the picture.
Harmonious vocal blending was also in evidence when mezzo Michelle Siemens as Cornelia and mezzo Jooyeon Song as Sesto performed the sad duet "Son nata a lagrimar" from Handel's Giulio Cesare. The tenderness between mother and son was moving.
We have reviewed bass Pnini Gruber on prior occasions and have always enjoyed his performance. Last night we adored his Don Pasquale as he negotiated with baritone Edward Cleary's Dr. Malatesta in "Fra da una parta" from Donizetti's opera of the same name. He was so effectively funny that we would consider this his signature role. In spite of his youth he went beyond stereotype and conveyed every shade of his character's nature.
We also enjoyed soprano Yulan Piao's sweet Mimi with tenor Fanyong Du a shade too forceful as Rodolfo in the Act I duet from Puccini's La Bohème. Soprano Barbara Kits sang the beautiful aria "Mercé, dilette amiche" from Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani. Soprano Dorothy Gal sang Manon in her first meeting with Des Grieux (Nenad Čiča) in Massenet's Manon.
Mozart's operas were well represented. Soprano Shannon Jones sang Susanna to baritone Edward Cleary's Count Almaviva in a duet from Nozze di Figaro; in "Crudel! Perché finora" she pulls him into a trap. From his Don Giovanni, we heard baritone Matthew Gamble doing his best to woo soprano Samarie Alicea as Zerlina in "La ci darem la mano".
Maestro Nadler himself conducted. Accompanists were Brian Eads, Chun-wei Kang, and Dmitri Glivinskiy. Scenes were effectively staged by Joshua Major and Pat Diamond. It was a splendid evening and we will be attending another performance next week so stay tuned for more. When this program ends, another institute will be held by IVAI in Montreal. To visit IVAI's website and see the list of alumni was a revelation. So many highly accomplished artists have passed through their program!
(c) meche kroop