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, December 14, 2015


Carmine M. Alfiero and Marisan Corsino

We just spent over 2 1/2 hours (without intermission) listening to budding artists at Weill Recital Hall in a winner's recital produced by the American Fine Arts Festival, now in their twelfth year of providing performance opportunities by means of audition.

This is our first experience with AFAF and we are unable to find much information on their website and there is almost nothing in their program. Consequently we can say little about the performers, particularly since there were errors in the programming, not to mention misspelling of names. The young woman given the task of verbally announcing such changes was inaudible, even from the front row.  Never mind.  Let's get to the performances.

There were two standouts in the vocal area. Mezzo soprano Marisan Corsino, winner of the Russian Seasons Competition, demonstrated skills in both art song and opera. In what sounded to us like excellent Russian, she sang "The Soldier's Wife" by Rachmaninoff, a tale filled with grief. Ms. Corsino is a self-contained artist and used the colors of her voice, rather than gesture.  In Polina's aria from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, she employed her entire register all the way down to a deep affecting bottom.

Soprano Becca Conviser is a very different sort of singer, making ample use of facial expression and gesture. She has a big voice and tackled "Dich Teure Halle" from Richard Wagner's Tannhaüser. It was a rousing success. She also performed "Tutte nel cor vi sento" from Mozart's Idomeneo and did just fine negotiating the tortuous skips up from the very bottom to the upper register.

We also liked Shubhangi Amitkumar Das' coloratura in Händel's "Rejoice Greatly O Daughter of Zion", which she followed up with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera.

There were several other singers on the program, most of them not really performance-ready. We do understand that such recitals as these are meant to provide such experience but there are certain basics that should had been taught, even how to smile at the audience and how to take a bow. These youngsters rushed on and off the stage. There was nothing in the program to tell what age group they belonged to but we suspect that most were far younger than they appeared. Lavish gowns and high heels lead an audience member to expect a more polished performance. Furthermore, the pieces chosen (by whom??) for them to sing were often beyond their capabilities.

There were lots of instrumentalists on the program (over two dozen budding artists and their accompanists) and some of them were quite wonderful. It seems as if the voice is the most difficult instrument to master, since some of the instrumentalists were quite young and yet quite accomplished. The program opened with Lauren Elizabeth Kim playing Four Tales by Medtner. She appeared to be under 10 years of age but played with admirable assurance.

Young violinist Rhys Evans played "Sicilienne and Rigaudon" by Fritz Kreisler.  Not only did he play beautifully but we suspect that his accompanist was his sister. She had a touching rapport with him. We wished the program had been more explicit.

Natalie Lin delighted us with her cello performance of selections from Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococco Theme.  Julia Angelov was poised on the violin, playing part 3 of  Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1. 

Jacob Katz excelled in a couple of Chopin's challenging Etudes. Evangeline Gao tacked Liszt's Etude No. 3 and played beautifully.  Evgeni Petrichev drew some wonderful colors from an Etude by Rachmaninoff. We also heard a guest artist from Russia--Nikita Galaktionov--who polished off a pair of Etudes by Scriabin and won our heart with Prelude #2 by Gershwin, filling it with jazzy styling.

Finally we wish to call attention to a pianist from Russia who captured all the anxiety of Prokofiev's Sonata #3 in A minor, and managed to come up smiling. No one else smiled all evening; these youngsters were all so serious! It was heartwarming to witness one who enjoyed performing.

(c) meche kroop

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