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, April 30, 2017
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Friday, April 28, 2017
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
|Chris Reynolds and Kady Evanyshyn|
Mezzo-soprano Kady Evanyshyn is as luscious of voice as she is of appearance. She possesses a most welcoming stage presence and shows no evidence of anxiety; au contraire, her addresses to the audience were so relaxed we felt as if a friend had invited us to her parlor for some music-making. She is blessed with a gorgeous instrument of notable texture and has acquired fine technique and linguistic skills. Indeed, our prior hearings of her artistry have been through Glenn Morton's Classic Lyric Arts recitals--brief exposures but enough to have made us want to hear more.
We cannot say that the opening aria was cheerful but it served to show off her superb skill with early opera. "Disprezzata regina" is Ottavia's Act I lament from Claudio Monteverdi's last opera, the 1643 L'incoronazione di Poppea, which established the composer's reputation in the field of music theater. Poor Ottavia bemoans the fate of women chained to cheating husbands. As you may recall, Nerone is enamored of Poppea and casts his wife aside. Ms. Evanyshyn's lovely vibrato emphasized her grief.
A set of Schubert songs were performed in fine German--the lighthearted "An Sylvia" is such a joyful expression of admiration for the lovely eponymous Sylvia! His "Der Vollmond strahlt auf Bergeshohn" was written as incidental music for the play Rosamunde by Wilhelmina Christiane von Chezy. The libretto for the play has been lost and only partially reconstituted, but Schubert's music continues to delight audiences. We are pleased to tell you that things end well for the heroine, but this piece deals with separation and heartbreak; Chris Reynold's piano established the sadness with his minor key introduction whilst Ms. Evanyshyn's dynamic control served her well.
After the troubled text of "Die Liebe hat gelogen", we heard the impulsive "Rastlose Liebe", given a breathless feeling tone but executed with excellent breath control. Quite a feat!
The highlight of the evening was, for us, Modest Mussorgsky's nursery songs. We haven't heard them since Mary-Elizabeth O'Neill performed them at Juilliard two years ago. We loved them then and we loved them last night. They gave Ms. Evanyshyn plenty of opportunity to exercise her dramatic muscle and to use her bubbly personality.
With admirable vocal coloration, she sounded very much like a little boy, sometimes naughty and sometimes trying to please his nanny. This little boy is entranced by scary stories but ultimately prefers the funny ones. She also created the character of the nanny who loves her little charge but can get cranky and scold him. Oh, did that little boy sound aggrieved when punished for the cat's misbehavior!
When he says his bedtime prayers, he seems to have countless aunties and uncles that he rattles off to our great delight. And when he falls off his hobby-horse, the soothing words of his mother were given an entirely different coloration. Oh, how we long to hear Ms. Evanyshyn sing the entire cycle, of which we heard more than half.
Gabriel Faure's final song cycle L'horizon chimerique comprises four delicate songs that were given a light touch and sung with fine French style. They certainly showed off some diligent work at CLA's summer program in France. For this cycle, Arthur Williford took over from Chris Reynolds as collaborative pianist.
The final set comprised cabaret songs by William Bolcom, settings of pithy texts by Arnold Weinstein. In "Over the Piano", the voice has been given a melodic line but the piano has been given some abrasive harmonies. "George" is the tale of a cross-dressing opera singer who comes to a sad end, and "Amor" is that wonderfully tuneful and catchy creation that is usually given as an encore piece, one of which we never tire.
The encore piece was a tune the artist's parents played for her when she was a child. It was a cute and silly song with an uncredited composer and was dedicated to her parents who were in the audience. We stand in awe of an artist with the versatility to do credit to opera, lieder, and cabaret.
We looked back over the program and realized that the material was not what was creating our feeling of joy. It was the artist's joy in singing it that was so contagious. We are amazed to find such talent in an undergraduate! The best news we heard all day was that she will continue at Juilliard in the Masters of Music program so we will have the opportunity to hear her again. Well done Kady!
(c) meche kroop
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Years ago there was a saying about double features--"one piperoo, one stinkeroo". Let no one say that about the operatic double feature we enjoyed last night performed by the Opera Repertoire Ensemble of Manhattan School of Music. Actually, there was plenty of resonance between the two tales of female suicide.
The heroine of Francis Poulenc's 1959 monodrama La Voix Humaine (adapted from a play by Jean Cocteau) suffers from romantic illusions whilst the heroine of Puccini's 1918 Suor Angelica suffers from religious illusions (or delusions, as the case may be).
|Monica Talavera and Amber Evans|
In the Poulenc, a woman with no name is having a much interrupted conversation with a lover who has ended the relationship. Clearly she is not ready to let him go and is still using terms of endearment. The role calls upon the soprano to sing a minimalistic vocal line based upon French speech patterns, and to inject her
lines with a full spectrum of emotions.
The listener hears only her half of the conversation. The words of the man are left to the imagination of the listener to fill in from his/her own experience. He must obviously care for the woman to some extent to stay on the phone and listen to her protestations of love and her made-up stories which she later recants.
Continual interruptions and disconnections add to the fragmentary nature of the monologue, and are symbolic of the emotional disconnection. As "Elle", soprano Rachel Stewart rose to the vocal challenges and gave a shattering performance, involving the audience by means of her own involvement with the role. We wonder about a character who would give up her life for five years and center it around a man--but this was over a half century ago. Autre temps, autre moeurs.
Even further back in history, a century ago, getting pregnant out of wedlock was enough to cause a family to reject the unfortunate mother-to-be and to hustle her off to a convent to do penance for her "sin". Nowadays women who prefer to be unwed can deliberately create a child and raise it alone or en famille.
Suor Angelica's aristocratic family has immured her in a convent and deprived her of any contact. She suffers mightily from neglect and wants nothing more than to embrace her son. When she finally gets the longed-for visit from her aunt, La Principessa, there is no forgiveness or acceptance. The purpose of the visit is to get her to sign over her inheritance. Even worse, she learns that her child died several years earlier.
She poisons herself with an herbal concoction, becomes terrified about being damned, prays, and believe herself forgiven. She hallucinates her child welcoming her to heaven.
With meager resources at hand, the Opera Repertoire Ensemble gave the piece an excellent production, thanks to the breadth of vocal talent available. The piece opens with the superb chorus singing an Ave Maria. The eponymous Suor Angelica was sung by the excellent soprano Amber Evans who was moving in her portrayal and sang with a light clear tone regardless of whether she was in ecstasy or despair.
The other superb performance was that of contralto Monica Talavera who created a character who was as cold as she was arrogant; her rich instrument stood in lovely contrast with Ms. Evans' soprano.
The entire cast of nuns sounded wonderful with voices raised in gorgeous harmonies and the brief solo lines were well handled by each and every nun.
Although we missed Puccini's lush orchestrations, a great job was done by pianists Jiwon Byung and Yi Xin Tan together with Jia Jun Hong filling in with special effects on the synthesizer.
As usual, Maestro Thomas Muraco's sensitive conducting pulled everything together to create a most worthwhile evening. Watching his hands is a treat in and of itself.
There will be a second performance tonight with some cast changes and we recommend it highly if you can snag a ticket. Last night had a waiting line to deal with so go early.
(c) meche kroop
Friday, April 21, 2017
|Pianist Cody Martin and singers Zachary Owen, Mariya Kaganskaya, Katrina Galka, Alyssa Martin, and Joseph Lattanzi|
For those of us who cherish the future of opera, it was a golden opportunity to hear the rising stars of the desert sky. The recital by Arizona Opera Studio Artists was part of Opera America's Emerging Artist Recital Series. For us personally, it was an opportunity to witness the growth of two lovely ladies we had enjoyed in Santa Fe, as part of their Apprentice Program--and to be introduced to three more singers of whom we hope to hear more.
The overall quality was impressive and it is no wonder that these young artists are receiving awards and filling roles around the country. We were delighted to learn that two of them will be in Santa Fe this summer so we will get to hear them again. The others will be at Glimmerglass and if that venue were more accessible for non-drivers, we would go to hear them as well.
Opening the program were soprano Katrina Galka and mezzo-soprano Alyssa Martin in "Ah, perdona al primo affetto" an ardent love duet from Mozart's La clemenza di Tito. Ms. Galka's soaring soprano was perfect for Servilio and Ms. Martin's performance as Annio had plenty of breadth.
The scene from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in which Guglielmo seduces Dorabella "Il core vi dono" was so convincingly performed that our mind filled in the set and the plot of the entire opera. Mezzo-soprano Mariya Kaganskaya was an ambivalent but willing Dorabella, succumbing to the seductive blandishments of a very persuasive Joseph Lattanzi. Both have voices we would describe as creamy-dreamy.
The next few duets were in French, which is far more difficult to sing. If the diction was not perfect, it was creditable and mostly understandable. We loved the harmonies produced by Ms. Kaganskaya and bass-baritone Zachary Owen in the scene from Massenet's Cendrillon in which Pandolfe tries to comfort his disappointed daughter--"Ma pauvre enfant cherie".
We have never been a fan of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande but we absolutely adored the love scene "Mes longs cheveux descendent jusqu'au seuil de la tour". The eroticism was as thick as molasses until the angry Golaud appears on the scene. The versatile Ms. Martin was perfect for Melisande and Mr. Lattanzi's legato served him well as the besotted Pelleas. Mr. Owen proved a threatening Golaud. We wondered whether our newborn affection for this opera came from the ardency of the vocal performance or the beautiful pianism of Cody Martin who captured Debussy's shimmering colors. We'd have to say both!
Berlioz' gorgeous melodies and harmonies served to express the glories of la belle nature when Hero (Ms. Galka) and her attendant Ursula (Ms. Kaganskaya) join voices for "Nuit paisible et sereine". This duet from Beatrice et Benedict was balm to the ears and both singers followed the long leisurely line of the phrases most effectively. It was swoon-worthy.
A return to Italian offered these fine artists an opportunity to dabble in comedy and bel canto. From Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore we heard the wise Adina (Ms. Galka) let the bloviating Dulcamara (Mr. Owen) know that she had enough charm and she didn't need his love potion. Their performances were winning and we got the impression that Mr. Owen is more comfortable in Italian and very effective in comedy. We can just picture him as Don Pasquale!
The final duet was the famous "Dunque io son...tu non m'inganni?" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. We always wait for that special moment when the spunky Rosina surprises Figaro with the note for "Lindoro" which she has already written. Ms. Martin seemed just right for Rosina and Mr. Lattanzi showed equivalent flexibility.
Although it was the perfect way to end a grand recital, we were left wanting more. An hour of duets is never enough but we'd rather have quality than quantity so there will be no complaining!
Mr. Martin's accompaniment was superb throughout.
(c) meche kroop
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
Friday, April 14, 2017
|Brandon Bergeron, Mikaela Bennett, and Andrew O'Donnell (photo by Sharna Striar)|
This will be the ninth time we have reviewed Ms. Bennett and have never heard a "false note". We have thrilled to her singing "N'est-ce plus ma main" from Massenet's Manon; we have been bowled over by her "O, mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (both at Classic Lyric Arts galas); we have heard her sing Adam's "O Holy Night" at Steven Blier's Christmas show; we have heard her in countless cabarets and liederabend. If there's anything Ms. Bennett cannot sing, we would be very surprised.
Last night's recital gave us a taste of everything. The first half of the program leaned toward the classical end of the spectrum. In 1893 Paris was treated to a not to terribly tragic operatic version of the story which, in Puccini's hands, became Madama Butterfly. The work by Andre Messager was called Madame Chrysantheme and we have never seen it or heard of it being produced. Ms. Bennett sang a gorgeous aria entitled "Le jour sous le soleil beni". She sang it with sensitive dynamics and a soaring upper register.
From Handel's Agrippina, we heard "Vaghe perle, eletti fiori", Poppea's remarkable expression of remarkable vanity. There was an abundance of coloratura fireworks, a gorgeous trill, and some crisp triplets echoed by Chris Reynold's highly accomplished piano.
Next we heard "Do you know him?" from Andre Previn's cycle Honey and Rue, with text by Toni Morrison. It was a bluesy song and began and ended with humming. It was performed a capella and had a delicious portamento at the end.
But for us, the highlight of the evening was Schubert's 1828 "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen", for which Ms. Bennett and Mr. Reynolds were joined by clarinetist Andrew O'Donnell, who helped us to realize just how like the voice, how vocal is that instrument.
The work is in three sections, more a chamber music piece than a lied. The first part is strophic and cheerful, making demands on the singer to negotiate huge leaps, the better to imitate yodeling. The role of the clarinet is to show the shepherd's voice echoing through the valley.
His loneliness is expressed in the sorrowful minor-key second section. He is suffering from sehnsucht for his beloved. In the third section, the coming of Spring produces great joy in a major key. Ms. Bennett's coloratura skills came in handy for the jauntily rising scale passages and an ear-tickling trill.
The second half of the program leaned toward the popular-classic side of the spectrum. From Jerome Kern's Showboat, we heard "Bill", accompanied by pianist Jeb Patton and bassist David Wong. Ms. Bennett has certainly mastered the jazz idiom and knows how much to bend a note. Just the word "thrill" was sung with so much feeling behind it--and not the same way twice!
From Jule Styne's Funny Girl, we heard "People" in a way that made us forget any other singer's rendition. Ms. Bennett made emotional sense of the lyrics and the instrumental solos were memorable.
From Harold Arlen's Cotton Club Parade--24th Edition, we heard "Ill Wind" which opened with a brilliant bass solo. It felt like an intimate conversation between Mr. Wong and Ms. Bennett.
Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" achieved a similar intimacy with a meditative feeling coming from Mr. Wong's bass and Mr. Patton's piano.
There were two pieces on the program that worked musically but disappointed because the sound of a five-piece band drowned out Ms. Bennett's words that we really wanted to hear. We don't believe it was her English diction because we had understood her just fine in the other pieces.
The band comprised Mr. Wong's bass, Bela Quines' viola, Meghan Todt's violin, Brandon Bergeron's (muted) trumpet, and Mr. O'Donnell's clarinet. They sounded just fine in Michael John Lachiusa's "Way Back to Paradise" from Marie Christine. We understood little of the words but enough to arouse our curiosity. We looked it up online; it was a 1999 musical with a very compelling story.
"First You Dream" from John Kander's Steel Pier, which closed the program, was a little clearer but not clear enough. The arrangements of both pieces were by Jack Gulielmetti.
We have no idea which path Ms. Bennett will take in the future, but she is sure-footed and should achieve whatever goal she sets her heart upon. Such versatility is rare.
(c) meche kroop