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, September 26, 2016


Winners of The Giulio Gari Foundation 2016 International Vocal Competition
Last night at the New York Athletic Club we were fortunate to hear some of the winners of the Giulio Gari Foundation 2016 International Vocal Competition. Some of the winners were unable to perform because of contract commitments (and we are happy that they have engagements!).  The ones we did hear confirmed our belief that these rising stars were well chosen and the Foundation's generosity was well directed.

Every year the Foundation gives generous cash prizes to these competition winners; those who support the Foundation get an inside track on the stars of tomorrow. We wish the lighting in the room had been more photography-friendly, so that readers might have a better look at these beautiful young artists who sang with dedication and commitment.

As is customary, Brian Kellow served as host for the evening and the versatile accompanists Jonathan Kelly and Arlene Shrut gave great pianistic support to the young artists.

The evening began by honoring the celebrated soprano, director, and teacher Catherine Malfitano who shared some words of wisdom about life on Planet Opera.  Also honored was soprano Ana Maria Martinez who expressed her gratitude for her brilliant career. If these two fabulous women could not inspire a young artist, no one could!

As is our wont, we will not discuss who won which prize or how much money each was awarded.  We prefer to share our personal reactions to the singers, all of whom we enjoyed.

We were particularly glad that Ms. Malfitano discussed the importance of acting. The kind of acting we witnessed seemed to come from deep within. For example, when soprano Vanessa Vasquez performed "Un bel di vedremo" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Cio-Cio San's delusion became our delusion as well.  She saw Pinkerton's ship on the horizon and so did we.

Ms. Vasquez has an arresting vocal quality and prodigious technique but what we remember several hours later is the way we felt!

Similarly, when bass Sava Vemič performed Fiesco's aria "Il lacerato spirito", from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, we could tell he was "feeling it" because we were also "feeling it" along with him. From what deep place Mr. Vemič was able to draw such sorrow over the loss of a daughter we know not. But he did and it was very affecting.  The sadness lingers in our memory.

Of course, his instrument is an extraordinary one which we have heard several times before, but there was a new amplitude in the lower register that gave us chills. One thinks of the bass fach as a late-developing one but Mr. Vemič is well on his way.

This was one of two Verdi arias on the program.  Baritone Jin Sol gave a wonderful performance of "Di provenza il mar, il suol" from La Traviata--a performance that would surely convince Germont's wayward son to return to the family.

There was quite a bit of Puccini on the program and the master would have been delighted hearing how well soprano Antonina Chehovska limned the character of Mimi as it changed from the romantic duet "O soave fanciulla" from Act I of La Bohème to the sorrowful Act III parting  "Addio dolce svegliare". We have always enjoyed Ms. Chehovska's singing but particularly appreciated this special touch.

In the duet, tenor Fanyong Du made a fine Rodolfo, and in the quartet Rodolfo was equally well performed by Marco Cammarota. Although the parts were small, soprano Meryl Dominguez made a marvelously fiery Musetta with Andrew Manea as her angry jealous lover Marcello. We can't wait to hear more of them.

From the final act of this sad story, the duet "O Mimi, tu piu non torni" was performed by tenor Jamez McCorkle as Rodolfo and baritone Norman Garrett as Marcello, both of whom did a great job trying to fake their indifference to their lost loves.  Their voices blended beautifully.

Donizetti got some attention as well, with tenor Daniel Bates, whom we well remember from the Santa Fe Opera last month, bringing out the high emotionality of Nemorino's aria "Una furtiva lagrima". He sang it with a splendid ringing tenor.

Mozart was not neglected either and "La ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni was pure delight with mezzo-soprano Hanna Ludwig being seduced by bass-baritone Pawel Konik in the role of the eponymous Don.

Finally, baritone Christopher Magiera, also remembered from the Santa Fe Opera, delighted us with Danilo's aria from Act I of Die Lustige Witwe, by Franz Lehár. This ebullient celebration of the bachelor life "Chez Maxime" is effervescent and Mr. Magiera captured it well.

All the young artists pleased our eyes and ears and we are grateful to The Giulio Gari Foundation for bringing them the recognition for which they have worked so hard and which they so richly deserve.

This worthwhile organization deserves the support of all you opera-lovers out there.

(c) meche kroop

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