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.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Pianist Cody Martin and singers Zachary Owen, Mariya Kaganskaya, Katrina Galka, Alyssa Martin, and Joseph Lattanzi

Tucson is the birthplace and home of Arizona Opera which has been building an audience for opera in Arizona since 1971. Their programming is eclectic and, judging by the performances we heard last night at The National Opera Center, the people of that gorgeous state are getting the highest quality.

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

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