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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Lochlan Brown and Tal Heller

It's been a year and a half since we heard mezzo-soprano Tal Haller sing at the Classic Lyric Arts gala.  My how her talent has grown under the tutelage of Arthur Levy!  The only flaw we could find in her splendid graduation recital at the National Opera Center was the brevity. Not that we were disappointed; although she gave an excellent sampler of her skills, we could have happily listened to her for another hour.

Ms. Heller has a pleasingly bright instrument that has a lovely soprano-y sound in the upper register. The vibrato is just about right and the overtones are most agreeable. She scored well in the expressive department and we found ourselves pulled into the songs.

Mozart's concert aria "Vado, Ma Dove?" opened the program in true Italianate style.  But it was the set of Reynaldo Hahn songs that impressed us with their excellent French. Ms. Taller's sojourn with CLA in France served her well. "L'Heure Exquise" was quite romantic and the large upward skips were perfectly negotiated.

From Hector Berlioz's Les Nuits D'Été, we heard a lovely performance of "Sur Les Lagunes", a sorrowful chanson with some very low notes. Ms. Taller performed it with great commitment to the text.

We love Brahms' settings of German folk songs and "Von Ewiger Liebe" is one of our favorites.  It requires the singer to color differentially the voices of the young man concerned about the reputation of his sweetheart and the sweetheart's firmness in her unshakeable love. This Ms. Taller accomplished most effectively.

The second half of the program comprised two Tosti songs.  "Ridonami La Calma" was sung with prayerful feelings and successful dynamic variety.

We also heard a pair of Mahler songs with which we were strangely unfamiliar.  We could not fathom what the text had to do with Don Juan but "Serenade" and "Phantasie" were well done and gave the artist another opportunity to hit those very low notes.

We noticed one little thing about Ms. Taller's German that could be improved. Often the final "ich" was glossed over as if she were afraid to "do it wrong". That being said, she had no problem with words like "nicht" and "nacht".  It would be a simple matter to borrow the "ch" from those words.

Closing the program were two songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, a contemporary American composer. The most important facet was the excellent English diction that made the words completely comprehensible. And the words to "My Mother is a Singer" are critical. The melody of "A Horse with Wings" was more interesting and the words made us think that Ms. Taller herself is the one with wings, ready to fly.

What happy news that she is staying on at Mannes College for Music to get her Master's Degree! But the summer break will take her to Chicago to sing the role of Mrs. Herring in Britten's Albert Herring. That should be a fine opportunity for her and a delight for the Chicago audience.

Collaborative pianist Lochlan Brown made a perfect partner for her fine singing. We particularly enjoyed his playing in the Berlioz.

(c) meche kroop

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