|Star-studded cast of Richard Tucker Foundation Gala at Carnegie Hall|
Perhaps you enjoyed the gala webcast live on medici.tv; we were fortunate enough to be there in person, right there in Carnegie Hall, a venue we much prefer to host an event of this magnitude. It's been a quarter century since the Richard Tucker Foundation Gala was held here.
Every year the Richard Tucker Foundation throws a helluva party to celebrate the current year's winner of the Richard Tucker Award, a ginormous $50,000 cash prize. That buys a lot of gowns and coachings!
The Richard Tucker Foundation was begun shortly after Mr. Tucker's untimely and premature death. It has perpetuated his artistic legacy by supporting young artists for 40 years and bestows its incredibly generous award on an artist poised at the edge of a major international career. Soprano Tamara Wilson sure meets that requirement in spades (and in hearts, diamonds, and clubs).
This versatile artist made several appearances tonight, opening the program with "Dich, teure Halle" from Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser, following the "Entrance of the Guests" from the same opera, performed by the superb New York Choral Society and members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra led by Maestro Asher Fisch.
Ms. Wilson is one of those big beautiful girls with big beautiful voices that come along every few years; she sure knows how to use this impressive instrument. We loved the way she sensitively modulated the volume and the way she limned the character of Elizabth.
She is just as adept with Verdi as with Wagner. Now that we have heard her sing "Tu al cui sguardo onnipossente" from I due Foscari, we will be very disappointed if the Met doesn't stage Verdi's early work and cast her! The flexibility in the fioritura fireworks, coming from such a huge voice, was remarkable.
With her mezzo-soprano counterpart Jamie Barton as Adalgisa and tenor Joshua Guerrero as Pollione, the finale of Act I from Bellini's Norma made a great impression. As versatile as she is, perhaps Cunegonde was not the best choice for the closing number, although her voice did harmonize well with Mr. Guerrero's in "Make Our Garden Grow" from Leonard Bernstein's Candide.
Getting back to Jamie Barton, this artist never fails to astonish us. There is something about her self-possession and the ability to get inside each character and make it her own that makes her a standout. Not since Marilyn Horne performed the role have we heard such luscious seductiveness pouring out of Dalila in "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. No Samson could resist!
Her duet with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato "Son nata a lagrimar" from Georg Frideric Händel's Giulio Cesare was stunning. It was a perfect example of two fine artists of the same fach sounding very very different. Having just come from Ms. DiDonato's master class, we witnessed exactly what she was trying to teach the youngsters in her class--giving the audience YOU, not what they expect.
We wish we could say that of soprano Kristine Opolais. She has a small voice without much variety of color but the major deficit, from our point of view, is that she "presented". We did not perceive much depth in her "Song to the Moon" from Antonin Dvorak's Russalka (a favorite of ours) and her "Un bel di" from Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly was filled with extravagant gesture but not much feeling. We may be alone in this opinion since the audience seemed pleased with both arias.
We suppose we have been spoiled by Renée Fleming's Russalka and wished that she had sung it last night. Not that we were at all disappointed in her choices! The violins set the tone for her "Adieu, notre petite table" from Jules Massenet's Manon. The colors of grief gave way to colors of joy in Ruggero Leoncavallo's lovely serenade "Mattinata".
Soprano Nadine Sierra can be counted on to give a superior performance each and every time. She is an artist of the finest caliber and graces the stage with her presence. We have witnessed the growth of her career for several years and she just keeps getting better and better.
In "Regnava nel silenzio" from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, she was totally present and made Lucia's character her very own. She wisely set up Lucia's fragility and instability while maintaining vocal integrity. Her duet with tenor Javier
Camarena--"Vieni fra questa braccia" from Vincenzo Bellini's I puritani showed a generosity of spirit and some lovely harmonies.
Mr. Camarena delighted the audience with his garlic-infused tarantella "La danza" by Gioachino Rossini, an old chestnut made new. His duet with tenor Lawrence Brownlee--"Ah vieni, nel tuo sangue" from Rossini's Otello was kind of strange with each tenor holding onto the "money note" for unreasonable lengths of time, causing the audience members to laugh out loud. Somehow, this rivalry seemed wrong for the aria in which Otello and Rodrigo are planning a duel, not a vocal competition.
The appearance of Anna Netrebko was most welcome. Having passed through the ingenue phase she has emerged with a glorious burnished instrument that thrills us in verismo territory even more than it did in bel canto land. Hearing her "La mamma morta" from Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier was a revelation and we can't imagine Gérard resisting any better than Samson resisted Dalila.
She has not lost her scintillating upper register with overtones galore while the lower register has expanded, offering a plenitude of texture. Her interpretations serve the character.
She followed this aria with an unscheduled one--"Io son l'humile ancella" from Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur--which further confirmed our impression. How interesting that Joyce DiDonato sang an aria on a similar theme--"Si, son io" from Jake Heggie's opera Great Scott which premiered exactly one year ago in Dallas with Ms. DiDonato as the star.
We have never enjoyed Heggie's writing as much as we did this aria. The thought occurred to us that the Italian language dictates a far lovelier vocal line than does the English language. And Ms. DiDonato's performance demonstrated all the principles that she taught in her master classes, reviews of which will appear within a couple days, right here.
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee performed "Seul sur la terre" from Donizetti's forgotten opera Dom Sébastien. His French was lovely, as was his phrasing but his voice did not capture our interest; we found the vibrato a bit too wide for our taste and there was some closing off of the high notes that made our throat hurt--a problem we experience so often with tenors.
We enjoyed the participation of the New York Choral Society in the opening number especially but also in the Norma trio, the Verdi, and in the closing number from Candide. Several musicians from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra made significant contributions, especially the harp in "Seul sur la terre".
Our ears are still tickled 8 hours after the concert. We imagine the walls of Carnegie Hall are still vibrating! Long may they vibrate!
And here's a link to the broadcast....https://www.medici.tv/
(c) meche kroop
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, October 31, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Monday, October 17, 2016
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Friday, October 14, 2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
|Gary Slavin, Matt Hughes, Alexis Cregger, David Macaluso, Leslie Middlebrook, and Claire Kuttler|
The bubbles in the champagne matched well with the effervescent performances onstage last night at The Players, when Light Opera of New York (known as LOONY) presented an evening of operetta and cabaret songs called "Drink! Drink! Drink". We sipped some bubbly but we gulped down the deliriously delicious entertainment.
Good music doesn't have to be "serious" and we enjoyed the humorous songs as much as the torch songs. All the voices were top notch and there was no amplification to assault our tender ears.
Most of the songs were about drinking or sung by characters who were "in their cups". The wisely chosen hostess was Leslie Middlebrook appearing as Count Orlofsky from Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, singing "Chacun à son goût" in a clever English translation. It was a fine concept and well executed by this excellent performer.
The most operatic number on the program was "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata, perfectly performed by Alexis Cregger and Matt Hughes.
The most philosophical number was a very heartfelt "If Love Were All" by Noel Coward, performed with depth by Claire Kuttler who also sang Strayhorn's "Lush Life", a tale of profound disappointment. The songs fit her voice and stage presence to a T.
The liveliest number was Strauss' "Czardas" performed with Hungarian style by Ms. Cregger. The most bibulous was her performance of "Ah, quel diner je vais de faire" from Jacques Offenbach's "La Périchole". She was hilarious and we understood every word of her intoxicated French.
The most humorous songs landed on Gary Slavin's broad shoulders. We loved the sardonic "Mrs. Lowsborough-Goodby" by Cole Porter and also his performance of Buffett's "Margaritaville" which had the audience singing along, although not a shaker of salt was to be found on any table. Mr. Slavin also staged the show, although the concept originated with Producer Carol Davis.
We recently saw (on HD video) the Metropolitan Opera's production of Lehar's "The Merry Widow". David Macaluso's performance of Danilo's aria "I'm going to Maxim's" far exceeded the one on video; he put so much personality into the song!
Matt Hughes managed a difficult task, performing a gender bending version of the ironic "You Can Always Count on Me" by Cy Coleman; it was funny just because he played it straight without fuss. The audience loved it and so did we!
Music Director Seth Weinstein accompanied all on the piano and did a swell job of it.
We always enjoy LOONY and eagerly await news of their upcoming season; it's their Tenth Anniversary! YAY!!!! More champagne please!
(c) meche kroop
Monday, October 10, 2016
|Jared Bybee and Isabel Leonard|
Readers will recall in what high esteem we hold the George London Foundation for Singers for their support of young artists. Their excellent series of recitals at The Morgan Library and Museum draws a large and enthusiastic audience who enjoy the music and the opportunity to mingle with the artists after the recital. The annual competition holds its finals on February 17th of 2017 and that will be one of the highlights of the season.
Yesterday's recital joined the talents of acclaimed mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, whose talent lights up every venue in which she sings, and rising star baritone Jared Bybee whose artistry garnered him an Encouragement Award last season from the George London Foundation.
We have been thrilling to Ms. Leonard's artistry since she was an undergraduate at Juilliard. We have heard and enjoyed Mr. Bybee in a number of competitions and also at the Santa Fe Opera. So we were really looking forward to this recital. Actually it managed to exceed our high expectations!
Perhaps it's the Argentinean genes that are responsible for Ms. Leonard's exquisite connection with Latin American music but when she feels it, we feel it. She performed four Spanish songs in different moods and varied colors. We were most affected by Manuel de Falla's "Oracion de las madres que tienen sus hijos en brazos"; if there is a more poignant anti-war song we have yet to hear it.
Ms. Leonard's performance of the "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen made this old chestnut fresh again. There was so much going on in the introduction that we experienced the character in a new way--less arrogant and flashy--and more teasingly seductive.
Bellini must also be a favorite as evidenced by Adalgisa's aria "Sgombra è la sacra selva...Deh! Proteggimi, o Dio!" from Norma. Ms. Leonard manages to walk the fine line between reserve and exhibitionism. Every gesture appears spontaneous but must have been carefully considered. There is no excess; nothing is wasted. Tonal quality, language, phrasing, stage presence--everything is perfect.
We were likewise thrilled with Mr. Bybee's performance, particularly with the depth and breadth of his tone and his linguistic skills. He performed Maurice Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée in the most perfect French (we understand he studied with Classic Lyric Arts in France). He was effective without showy dramatics, using an admirable economy of gesture.
His phrasing worked well but what impressed us the most was his use of dynamic variety. One might say that he captured the spirit of each song--the reverence of "Chanson romanesque", the passion of "Chanson épique", and the humor of "Chanson à boire".
We were happy to hear yet more French from him in "Vision fugitive" from Massenet's Hérodiade, in which Hérode is transported by his vision of Salomé. We too were transported.
Mr. Bybee also sang selections from Voices from World War II--a cycle composed by Gene Scheer who had not been born until over a decade after the war ended. Nonetheless he wrote the lyrics himself. The music was more melodic than most contemporary music and the lines rhymed, although the scanning was awkward in places.
Nonetheless, it was given an affecting performance by Mr. Bybee whose English diction is so fine that we missed not a single word. As a woman, we were more affected by the aforementioned de Falla song. Mother love sings better than battle stories! Perhaps the song that made best use of our spiky English language was the jazzy "At Howard Hawks' House".
If you are bringing two terrific talents together, you can expect some delightful duets. From Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, we heard the wonderful teasing "Il core vi dono" in which Guglielmo wins the heart of Dorabella. Our heart was won by the charm of the scene.
Still more Mozart, also of a teasing nature, was heard in "Crudel! Perche finora" from Le Nozze di Figaro in which the clever Susana fools the not-too-clever Count Almaviva about a subsequent rendezvous. We must say that Ms. Leonard is very very good at teasing! In both these duets the two artists related extraordinarily well, both vocally and dramatically.
Each artist generously offered an encore. Mr. Bybee chose Salvatore Cardillo's "Cor 'ngrato" (Caterí! Caterí!) which he sang in authentic Neapolitan dialect. Just as Ms. Leonard comes by her facility with Spanish genetically, Mr. Bybee comes by his the same way.
Ms. Leonard's encore was "Someone to Watch Over Me", composed by the brothers Gershwin for the 1926 musical Oh, Kay! This team definitely knew how to use the English language and Ms. Leonard gave it a sincere reading that reinforces our belief that Broadway music, when done well, is truly America's best shot at the genre of "art song". Every phrase was sung for meaning, not for "effect".
The audience absolutely insisted on more and more we got! We rarely get tearful at a recital but this performance of "If I Loved You" from the 1945 musical Carousel turned on the waterworks. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were another writing pair who captured the American idiom perfectly.
It is many hours later but the mood has lingered. We always enjoy recitals but this one touched us deeply. And that's a good thing! Why get angry about politics when one can be deeply moved by good music!
(c) meche kroop