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.

Friday, December 4, 2015


Rachel Sterrenberg and Jarrett Ott--Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artists  

Once opera stars are "playing in the major leagues" we can no longer call them "emerging artists". What a pleasure it was to spend an hour listening to two artists already assuming major roles with Opera Philadelphia whose Emerging Artists Program is only in its second year and already a success.

Soprano Rachel Sterrenberg and baritone Jarrett Ott are both graduates of Curtis Institute. Mr. Ott is well known to us but Ms. Sterrenberg is new to us. We foresee a glorious future for both of them.

Since we love opera and we love duets, it comes as no surprise that our favorite part of the program was the father-daughter duet from Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites--"Je vois qu'il n'y a heureusement". Mr. Ott's rich baritone and paternal concern coupled with Ms. Sterrenberg's purely voiced religious convictions had us believing the scene even taken out of context.

Their closing duet "We'll Go Away Together" from Kurt Weill's Street Scene was a more joyful one and no less enthralling.

Happily, there was more Poulenc on the program.  Happily, because both artists showed a facility with French and also because we are coming to appreciate his music more and more these days. Mr. Ott sang "Fameux représentant de toute autorité" from Les Mamelles de Tirésias. His interpretation was considerably different from the one heard at Juilliard last week. It's always interesting to hear what different artists do with the same material.

Ms. Sterrenberg performed his La Courte Paille and performed it with grace, charm and humor. We loved the lullabye "Le sommeil", the waltzy "La reine de coeur" and the adorable "Le carafon".

The remainder of the program was in English and the very first thing we observed was that EVERY WORD WAS CLEAR! Both of these artists must have had superior training in English diction. Of the Ned Rorem songs, our favorite was the evocative "Early in the Morning" from Evidence of Things Not Seen. It was beautifully sung by Ms. Sterrenberg and reminded us of being very young in Paris.

The romantic "A Glimpse" was given a special thrill by Mr. Ott's perfect vibrato.  Collaborative pianist Grant Loehnig was most impressive in "The More Loving One".  "For Poulenc" is a setting of text by Frank O'Hara and came from the 1968 cycle Four Songs.  Ms. Sterrenberg conveyed all the loneliness and disappointment in a way that touched our own feelings.  And isn't that what a song recital is all about?

Also included was John Musto's Shadow of the Blues, the four songs of which Mr. Ott delivered in an admirably non-fussy way, letting the irony, sadness, and bitterness speak for themselves.

Should you be inclined to give Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain another shot, you will hear Ms. Sterrenberg as Sara and you might hear Mr. Ott as Inman since he is covering the role. Worth a trip to Philadelphia?  We think so!

The program was part of a series--Opera America's Emerging Artist Recital Series. It is worth joining this valuable institution if only for the tickets to this series!

(c) meche kroop

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