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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


             Brittany Nickell

Wee Kiat Chia
Noragh Devlin
Alexandra Smither

 As part of The Song Continues 2017, Marilyn Horne led a standing room only master class at Carnegie Hall. Four young singers and four collaborative pianists got to show their stuff and pick up some very valuable tips from Ms. Horne, who is concerned that song recitals are an endangered species. When Ms. Horne was a young artist, she gave song recitals in all fifty states! She feels that it's important for young artists to know the song literature and how to perform it.  We couldn't agree more.

Two of the four singers were well known to us from Manhattan School of Music where we reviewed their performances on the opera stage. We were impressed with them then (and hope you will use the search bar to read those reviews from the past three years) and were delighted to hear them perform in recital mode.

Soprano Brittany Nickell has a generous sound and seems to have quite a future singing roles that call for a sizable voice. Last night we heard her sing two songs by Strauss, one very familiar one from Vier Letzte Lieder--"Im Abendrot". She was coached to make her consonants crisper and her vowels more accurate. Variations of color and dynamics were addressed. We loved the advice to "enjoy the melisma" on the word "milder".

Ms. Horne's comment about "Schon sind, doch kalt die Himmelssterne" was that it was one of Strauss' "B songs" and that every set should include both well known songs and lesser known ones.  That's a point to which we have never given much thought, but it does make perfect sense.  Ms. Nickell should have a lot of Strauss in her future.  Her collaborative pianist was Nathan Raskin.

Mezzo-soprano Noragh Devlin has been reviewed by Voce di Meche four times previously and we have always appreciated her richly textured instrument and convincing dramatic gifts. She brought all this to bear on her performance of Mahler's "Um Mitternacht", with  CP Katelan Terrell gamely trying to create the orchestration on the piano. Ms. Devlin is a true mezzo and her coaching involved the advice to start pianissimo and to "belt" at the end. She was advised to take more breaths and even to take a breath between "Mitter" and "nacht" at the end, in order to give full measure to the climax.

Soprano Alexandra Smither elected to perform Schumann's setting of Goethe's "Kennst du das Land", which has been set by all the important composers of lieder in the 19th c.  Ms. Horne's coaching brought out all of the pathos, especially in the places where she was advised to take her time.  Ms. Smither was accompanied by Madeline Slettedahl.

We love the counter-tenor fach but we confess to being rather confounded by the choice of material made by Wee Kiat Chia. Xavier Montsalvatge's "Cancion de cuna" from Canciones Negras involves a mother lulling her baby to sleep. We have no problem with gender bending but it seems to work better as a source of humor. Mr. Chia was coached to feel the rocking rhythm in his body.

His other choice was Robert Schumann's "Ich grolle nicht" from Dichterliebe. He was coached to keep the sound forward, to watch out for double consonants, and to keep the momentum--advice that was also given to the other singers on the program. His CP was Zalman Kelber. We speculated that Mr. Chia wanted to do something different and we always applaud risk taking. But for our ears, we would prefer to hear him in some Handel!

(c) meche kroop

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