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.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Jesse Pieper, Jennie Legary, Anastasia Rege, Christina Hourihan

"Why JACOPERA?" we wondered when we received the invitation. Duh!  Jen, Ana, and Chrissy-- JAC.  Three friends who love to sing and started a group to present recitals.  Last night we attended their debut at the National Opera Center, and a mighty fine debut it was. 

We had reviewed soprano Christina Hourihan in the dog days of summer and actually went onstage to wind up her Olympia. That aria was not on last night's program but there was plenty of other material to enjoy.

We particularly enjoyed Ms. Hourihan's sense of drama in everything she sang, making each aria believable, even when out of context. Mozart's "Batti Batti, o bel Masetto" from Don Giovanni was a standout and truly conveyed the various strategies Zerlina uses to win Masetto's forgiveness. This gal can really act!

Saturday night we heard "Mein Herr Marquis" from Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus sung in English.  Last night Ms. Hourihan sang it in the original German and we liked it so much better.  We could really believe her as the maid Adele putting on airs for her employer Eisenstein.

We also enjoyed her "O non credea mirarti" from Bellini's La Sonnambula both the cantabile section and the cabaletta "Ah, non giunge!" in which she unleashed her coloratura skills.

Soprano Anastasia Rege made serious inroads into our disinterest in singing in English. We particularly liked her performance of "The Trees on the Mountain" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah; we liked it so much we hope to hear the entire opera in the near future. Most importantly, we could understand the words!

Similarly, "Dido's Lament" from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas was beautifully rendered with fine diction and lovely phrasing. But she also sang well in Italian--the "Ave Maria" from Verdi's Otello--always a heart breaker.

Mezzo-soprano Jennie Legary had her finest moment in "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" from Massenet's Werther which impacted us with its intense feeling and the richness of Ms. Legary's voice. She not only handled the French beautifully but also sang in Italian --"O Mio Fernando" from Donizetti's La Favorita in which she displayed a great deal of strength in the lower register. We wonder why this glorious opera is so rarely performed.

One advantage of having a group of singers is the opportunity to mix it up with duets and trios. The opening duet was the first movement from Stabat Mater by Pergolesi which sounded gorgeous but was marred by the use of (YIKES!) music stands.

The two sopranos sounded glorious in "Sull'aria" from Mozart's Nozze di Figaro with Ms. Rege taking the role of the Countess and Ms. Hourihan performing the part of Susanna. It would have been much better off the book, and the same can be said for "Sous le Dôme épais" from Delibes' Lakmé. Memorize, girls, memorize!!!

The closing number was "Lift Thine Eyes" from Mendelssohn's Elijah in which the three voices created perfect harmonies that thrilled the ear.

Piano accompaniment was provided by the excellent pianist Jesse Pieper who is relatively new to New York and who deserves a welcome mat.

This fine grouping will be going on tour and are sure to delight audiences on the West Coast.

(c) meche kroop

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