|Angel Blue, Alexey Lavrov, and Ben Bliss|
We have been fans of tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Alexey Lavrov for some time now and readers can find several reviews of their incomparable interpretations through the search bar on this website. Soprano Angel Blue is new to us but is on the same impressive professional level; we hope to hear her again soon since her performance, like those of dear Alexey and dear Ben, left us tingling with pleasure.
Thanks to the City Parks Foundation Summer Stage and the Metropolitan Opera, New Yorkers in all boroughs have the opportunity to enjoy great artists singing great music. The selections chosen were all popular arias and duets with nothing dissonant or "challenging". It was a program of pleasure.
This particular concert was first performed in Central Park but we attended the reprise in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking the skyline of lower Manhattan. The audience was held spellbound for nearly two hours with not a single cell phone to distract from the entertainment. Even the children were quiet. Such is the power of artistry!
It must be difficult for singers to deal with the elements and with amplification, but the strain did not show. Accompanied by the versatile Dan Saunders, the sound balance was fine and one could appreciate the skillful performances almost as much as one could in an indoor theater with fine acoustics.
This week as been filled for us with Romeo and Juliet (both opera and ballet) but hearing Ms. Blue's opening number "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's opera let us know immediately that we were in the presence of a fine talent. She was a touching Micaëla in "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" from Bizet's Carmen.
No matter how many times one has heard "O, mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi one is never bored. One might think that all the amateur singers on TV might have spoiled it, but hearing Ms. Blue's performance wiped out all those aural images. Ms. Blue's sizable voice and warm personality are perfect for Puccini and we heard selections from La Bohème and Tosca that bowled us over.
Readers may recall how fond we are of zarzuela and we were thrilled that Ms. Blue chose Luisa's fiery aria "Carceleras" from Rupert Chapi's Las Hijas de Zebedeo. She has all the flexibility to make the Arabic-inflected flamenco passages exciting.
Readers are probably aware of how impressed we are with the appositely named Mr. Bliss. We are so pleased to be witnessing his meteoric rise through the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and his stage-worthiness at the Met and on opera stages worldwide. What a perfect Alfredo he made last night in "De' miei bollenti spiriti" from Verdi's La Traviata!
The gentler passions of Mozart's "Un'aura amorosa" from Cosi fan Tutte and "O wie ängstlich" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail were no less stirring and gave him the chance to show off his flawless German in the latter.
There was also an aria from an opera unfamiliar to us that was striking in its loveliness--"Magische Töne" from Karl Goldmark's 1875 opera Die Königin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba). We love discoveries and, for us, this was a real winner and perfectly suited to Mr. Bliss' "magic tone".
As encore, Mr. Bliss blissed us out with (you guessed it!) an aria from a zarzuela. "Flor Roja" from Jacinto Guerrero's Los Gavilanes was recorded by Alfredo Kraus and Placido Domingo; we hope Mr. Bliss will record it! The timbre of his voice, the amazing vibrato, and his skillful control of dynamics made it unforgettable.
Baritone Alexey Lavrov, another gifted artist coming out of the Lindemann program, gave us the exciting "Mab, la reine des mensonges" from R&J as well as the lovely serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra" from Mozart's Don Giovanni from which he also sang everyone's favorite duet "Là ci darem la mano" with Ms. Blue as his Zerlina.
He also sang everyone else's favorite duet "Au fond du temple saint" with Mr. Bliss and went on to the very sad duet "O Mimi tu più non torni". And yet another duet with Ms. Blue "Lippen schweigen" from Franz Lehar's Die Lustige Witwe which involved some charming waltzing around the stage.
But we most enjoyed Mr. Lavrov in his Russian selection from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Aleko--"Vyes' tabor spit" and in his garlic-inflected encore "Parlami d'amore Mariù" composed in 1932 by Cesare Andrea Bixio and Ennio Neri.
It was a most fulfilling evening which, we hope, won converts to opera. Judging by the prolonged standing ovation, we think so.
There will be more of these concerts and you may just find one you will love by visiting the Met website.
(c) meche kroop