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.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Glenn Morton and the wonderful singers from Classic Lyric Arts Gala

There are so many components to great singing beyond a great voice.  Singers invest so much effort into refining their vocal technique and studying the text and learning how to make contact with the audience. We have enormous respect for the amount of study and dedication that goes into the art of singing. There is a final element that puts the finishing touch on a singer's performance and that is the ease of singing in a foreign language.

This ease comes from connection with the language, culture, history and even the food of another culture. It is one thing to learn a text phonetically but a much different thing to grasp the rhythm of a language and how a good text works together with the music.  (This is one of the main reasons that we don't enjoy foreign language operas presented in English).

Classic Lyric Arts can be thought of as a "finishing school" for singers. Those who are fortunate enough to be accepted to L'Art du Chant Français in France or La Lingua della Lirica in Italy are the cream of the crop of young singers and end their foreign sojourns with icing on their vocal cake.

At the gala Monday night, held at the Kosciuszko Foundation, we heard the results and they were mighty impressive. President Glenn Morton gave an eloquent speech about the moments of bliss we all experience at the opera and the challenge of melding song and syntax.

The entertainment portion of the evening began with a sextet from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. We loved the ensemble spirit that was likely engendered by studying together at La Lingua della Lirica. We heard Angela Joy Lamb, Maria Miller, Michelle Geffner, John Haney, Xiaoxiao Cheng, and Andrew Jurden with Brianna Han accompanying on the piano.

Mezzo-soprano Zoey Preston delighted us with "Ah quel diner je viens de faire" from Offenbach's La Périchole. We have reviewed this aria three times in as many months and it has become our favorite comic aria. Ms. Preston must have been drunk on champagne (well, we mean the character she portrayed) because she was effervescent. Michael Stewart accompanied.

The love duet from Verdi's Falstaff ("Labbra di foco") was sung by the sparkly soprano Hee So Son as Nanetta and the aforementioned tenor John Haney as the young Fenton. They were charming together as their voices intertwined. Michael Sheetz accompanied.

Michael Stewart was the accompanist for mezzo-soprano Vera Kremers who gave a self-contained performance of "La paix du cloître" from Février's Gismonda, an aria to which we were happy to be introduced. Ms. Kremers has a pleasing vibrato and a lovely brilliant upper register.

The final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto was performed by four excellent singers with Michael Sheetz at the piano. On one side we had baritone Xiaoxiao Cheng as the eponymous hunchback, consoling Elizabeth Perez' Gilda, while tenor Fanyong Du as the Duke was flirting with mezzo-soprano Maria Miller as Maddalena. The acting was as effective as the singing.

Tenor Stéphane Sénéchal, a faculty member whom we have reviewed recently, sang the role of the Chevalier Des Grieux whose commitment to the priesthood falls to the blandishments of the beautiful seductive Manon, sung by the beautiful and seductive Mikaela Bennett (whom no one could resist) in "N'est-ce plus ma main" from Massenet's Manon. Mr. Stewart's piano added to the intensity.

Mr. Stewart switched gears for the frivolous accompaniment to the Delibes song "Les filles de Cadix" which soprano Vivian Yau performed with plenty of sazón in her gestures.

Faculty member Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi blew us away with her performance of Tosti's "Vorrei morire", accompanied by Mr. Morton himself on the piano. The wellspring of feeling came from deep inside. She felt it; we felt it!

That was a tough act to follow but fortunately Ms. Lamb made a fine Thaïs for baritone Fernando Cisneros' Athanaël in "Te souvient-il du lumineux voyage" from the Massenet opera.

The final number was from Puccini's La Rondine--"Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso". Laetitia Ruccolo took over the piano and Mr. Sheetz conducted the chorus comprising participants of CLA Italy 2016 with lead roles being sung by Yeon Jung Lee, Ms. Perez, Sungwook Kim, and Mr. Haney.

The singers we heard enchanted us and served as terrific testimonials to the value of the programs. It is impressive to hear such communication through language layered onto the marvelous musical values. They made every phrase count!

(c) meche kroop

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