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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Faustine de Mones, Jiin Jung, Dorothy Gal, and Brianna Han
Last night at Mannes School of Music we heard An Evening of French Music, performed by Voice Major and Collaborative Piano Students. We are familiar with evenings coached by Christina Stanescu who directs the Collaborative Piano Department at Mannes. The performances are always topnotch. The recital began with a singing of "La Marseillaise"!

Soprano Faustine de Mones is a native speaker of French while soprano Dorothy Gal is not. A native speaker of French might have been able to tell the difference; we could not. We have been listening to Ms. Gal for some time since she has studied at Glenn Morton's French immersion program L'Art du Chant Francais. She just keeps getting better and better.

She sang Debussy's "Beau Soir" with fine diction and lovely phrasing; the warmth of her instrument lent a special flavor to the text. She continued with Duparc's "Chanson Triste" during which we noticed the fine arpeggios of collaborative pianist Brianna Han who has a light touch on the keys, just right for delicate French chansons.

Moving from chanson to aria, the pair performed "Allons, il le faut...Adieu, notre petite table" from Massenet's Manon, an aria filled with regret and misgivings.  No misgivings about the performance however!  Quite lovely, especially when Ms. Gal's singing became more expansive. Additionally, the aria offered her the opportunity to express the feelings by means of dynamic variation.

While Ms. Gal is a rather self-contained artist, Ms. de Mones is quite expressive. She opened with Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin, set by Poulenc. The text is a bit more obscure but we enjoyed the suggestive conclusion of "Le garçon de Liège". Ms. de Mones also chose an aria from Manon--"Je suis encore tout étourdie" from Act I.  In this aria, Manon is still an innocent girl on her way to the convent and our singer succeeded in conveying the excitement of her first trip. This young lady has a lively personality and a winning onstage presence. Jiin Jung was her fine piano partner.

Tenor John Ramseyer (who left before the group photo) has a fine vibrato that lends an interesting texture to his voice. He kept up the long delicate line of Duparc's Phidylé right until the climax on "ton meilleur baiser"when he opened up his voice. We further enjoyed "Adieu, Mignon" from Ambroise Thomas' Mignon, an opera based on Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre, which also inspired settings by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, and Wolf. Mr. Ramseyer conveyed the sensitivity of a tender farewell.

And what was the special treat we alluded to in the title? The famous Thomas Grubb, educator, coach, collaborative pianist, and author of Singing in French: a Manual of French Diction and French Vocal Repertoire, performed L'histoire de Babar le petit elephant; he gave a dramatic reading of the text by Jean de Brunhoff, punctuated and enhanced by Poulenc's piano interludes. If we want to talk about impeccable French, this was it. His delivery was spellbinding.

We didn't always see the connection between the text and the music but definitely preferred the more lyrical interludes when Babar rode on his mother's back, when he was adopted by the old lady, when he remembered his mother, when he hosted his cousins, and when he bid farewell to the old lady. We also liked the dance music for his wedding and the peaceful music at the end when night fell.

Mr. Grubb's illustrious presence can be credited to the Art Song Preservation Society which is aptly named. Artists and audiences alike are well served by their activities.

(c) meche kroop

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