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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


2017 Winners of Career Bridges Grants

Last night we were privileged to attend the Fifteenth Annual Career Bridges Awards Dinner and Concert at the Essex House, and what a night that was! Co-founded by David Schuyler Bender and Barbara Meister Bender, Career Bridges is one of those worthy and necessary organizations that helps young opera singers to achieve their dreams. They are unique in providing grant winners a three-year program of mentoring, financial support, and performance opportunities.

The Board of Directors, the Honorary Board of Directors, and the Board of Advisors comprise all the good people that make the enterprise possible with Benefactors, Patrons, Sponsors, Supporters, and Friends contributing the wherewithal. Last night's program began with a warm welcome from the Benders and awards were given to Anthony Piccolo, Director of the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus and Kent Tritle the renowned choral conductor who seems to be just about everywhere.

Although focusing on talent while people are eating and drinking is a bit more difficult than in a recital hall, the performances were so impressive that they won out over our appetite. Most of the singers were this year's award recipients but some were guests from prior years.  A few were known to us and previously reviewed; we were delighted to have an opportunity to hear them again.

Among the familiar voices were soprano Shana Grossman and tenor Jonathan Tetelman who distinguished themselves in the famous final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto. (We believe we first reviewed them in Die Fledermaus, produced by Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance. Ms. Grossman won our heart as Adele and Mr. Tetelman delighted us as Herr Eisenstein. And there they were, together again!)  

Last night, Ms. Grossman made a splendid Gilda with well negotiated upward skips and fine fioritura. Mr. Tetelman made an excellent Duke. Filling out the quartet were Melanie Ashkar as Maddalena and Robert Balonek as Rigoletto.  (We remember Ms. Ashkar's weighty mezzo from Opera Rox' production of Handel's Alcina when she impressed us in the role of Bradamante. This is an unusual voice that, once heard, is not forgotten.) She also had a solo last night and by now you may have guessed that it was the "Seguidilla" from Carmen. Her dusky tone was perfect for the part.

Mr. Balonek is also known to us from Chelsea Opera. The voices harmonized in fine fashion and showed everyone's voice off to good advantage.

Hearing Mr. Tetelman sing "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Boheme with his full-throated tone was yet another treat. Even without context it was a dramatically valid performance and we especially enjoyed the pianissimo passages.

Soprano Yulan Piao (well remembered from her excellent performance as the eponymous Luisa Miller in the Verdi opera at Manhattan School of Music and from IVAI's summer program.) made a perfect Liu and her vibrant overtones were particularly well suited to the role.  From Puccini's Turandot, she performed "Signore, ascolta!" with fine tone and emotional expressiveness.

Baritone Jesse Malgieri is recalled from his work with the Little Opera Theater of New York and also from Chelsea Opera. He brought the superb recital to an inspiring close with "Impossible Dream", after which the entire group joined in for "Climb Every Mountain".

Now, let us tell you about some wonderful singers we had never heard before--and we do love hearing new people as much as catching up with those we already know.

The evening began with soprano Liz Lang whose flexibility and skill with fioritura made "Da tempeste" from Handel's Giulio Cesare a treat for the ears. We want to hear more of her!

From Verdi's Don Carlo, baritone Jared Guest  gave a moving performance of "O Carlo ascolta", one of our favorite baritone arias. And yes we want to hear more of Mr. Guest as well.

Coloratura soprano Emily Misch knocked our proverbial socks off with "Der Holle Rache", the Queen of the Night's riveting aria from Mozart's Die Zauberflote. The penetrating tone and wickedly difficult fioritura were all there. That's a tough act to follow but, fortunately, the charm of the Papageno/ Papagena duet was just what was needed.  Soprano Teresa Castllo and Mr. Balonek were just adorable together.

But it wasn't until Ms. Castillo performed "Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's Candide that we were able to appreciate the extent of her artistry. The vocal and dramatic challenges were equally well met.

Bass-baritone Eugene Richards used his substantial instrument effectively in "Suo Padre" from Verdi's Aida whilst bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian handled "Aleko's Aria" from Rachmaninoff's opera of the same name with equal success. Dorian McCall did well with "Vous qui faites l'endormi", Mefistofele's aria from Gounod's FaustHow fortunate to find three low voices on the same program.

After all that opera it was refreshing to take things down an emotional notch with the lovely song "La Rosa y el Sauce" by Carlos Guastavino and tenderly sung by Zaray Rodriguez. We just heard it at a Cinco de Mayo recital by Opera New York and was overcome by its loveliness.

Musical Director for the evening was Ted Taylor and the host was WQXR's Robert Sherman.

(c) meche kroop

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