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, January 8, 2017


Anna Tonna, Elaine Rinaldi, and Elisabet Torras Aguilera

Although we are in a studio in the theater district of Manhattan, it is not difficult to imagine that we are attending a musical soiree in the home of a wealthy Madrileno patron of the arts in 1830. The music, the singing, the dancing, and the effective costuming all contributed to the delightful illusion.

Gioachino Rossini lived from 1792 until 1868 and composed 40 operas in a period of 19 years, arguably the most famous of which is Il Barbiere di Siviglia. But he also composed many wonderful songs and he loved the mezzo-soprano fach. According to Simon Saad, the knowledgable lecturer who introduce4 Ms. Tonno's program, Rossini had strong ties to Spain, both through his banker/friend and through his Madrilena wife Isabella Colbran. In point of fact, he only visited Spain once in 1831 but had strong feelings for the country that helped form the backbone of vocal technique in that period.

Ms. Tonna chose seven of his finest songs for her showcase program this afternoon, and if you are tempted by our description, you will be happy to learn that the program will be repeated tomorrow Monday, January 9th, at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo at 6:00PM.

The first song on the program, "La passeggiata", dedicated to a Spanish queen, is filled with lavish embellishments which perfectly suited Ms. Tonna's coloratura technique, including a very fine trill. We loved the alternation between lyrical measures and staccato ones.

The second song "A Granada" was also dedicated to a Spanish queen, and was also in waltz time, but with lyrics of a more serious nature.

For "Canzonetta Spagnola", Ms. Tonna was joined by the fine Spanish dancer Elisabet Torras Aguilera. The text for this song was written by Signora Rossini (Ms. Colbran) and the rhythms are particular dance-worthy. When most people think of Spanish dance, they think of flamenco but it is evident that Spanish dance makes use of European ballet footwork but with a somewhat different use of the arms and the accompaniment of castanets. It was a pleasure to watch.

"La promessa", again in waltz rhythm, was dedicated to the wife of Rossini's banker friend, and is one of our personal favorites. Ms. Tonna got to show off her facility with wide skips in the melody and to utilize dynamic variety.

"L'invito", in Bolero rhythm, employed a text by the very same Count Carlo Pepoli who wrote the libretto for Bellini's I Puritani.  "Sorzico" in Basque rhythm, utilizied a text by Metastasio and the octave skips were deftly handled by Ms. Tonna.

The final work on the all-too-brief program was "Nizza, je puis san peine", the only work on the program sung in French. Ms. Tonna was joined once more by Ms. Aguilera who responded to  the lively Tirana rhythm with a freer style. There was some pretty fancy footwork and some familiar pirouettes, along with the customary crisp castanets.

We have reviewed Ms. Tonna on a number of prior occasions and have always loved her expressiveness and beautiful voice. For this showcase, her effective accompanist was Elaine Rinaldi.

If you are unable to make the Monday performance, all is not lost! There is a recording entitled "Espana alla Rossini" which contains even more material than this showcase.  Enjoy!

(c) meche kroop

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