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, June 30, 2017
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017
Thursday, June 15, 2017
|GeDeane Graham, Leah de Gruyl, Isola Jones, Hilary Hei Lee Law, Courtney Bray, and Olivia Johnson|
Who better to teach a group of mezzos than a mezzo who had a brilliant career? The much lauded mezzo-soprano Isola Jones conducted a master class for some of the participants in Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance program. Maestro Richard Cordova, the well known coach/pianist/conductor accompanied on the piano. We know Maestro Cordova well from Little Opera Theater of New York but he is best known for touring internationally with various productions of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.
Ms. Jones has had quite a career herself and, of course, has great knowledge of the particular issues facing women in the mezzo fach. Much of her instruction to the students had to do with getting the sound away from the throat and into the head, especially the sinuses. Mixing registers can be a challenge but the resonance must stay forward.
The soft palate must be raised but the sound bounces off the hard palate. Vowels must be thought of as vertical, not horizontal. All vowels should maintain the same color.
She called singing "speaking on a pitch" which is a most interesting concept. Several students were urged to sing less and speak more. Many young singers do not trust that their voices will be heard and tend to push unnecessarily.
We heard Courtney Bray sing the "Card Aria" from Bizet's Carmen; she is covering that role this summer and if you haven't yet secured tickets for the all-too-short season (7/6, 7, 8, and 9) you are well advised to do so quickly. You will probably see the best traditional Carmen ever and a superb production of Puccini's Suor Angelica paired with Gianni Schicchi.
Leah de Gruyl will be performing Zita in the latter and La Principessa in the former. Judging by what we heard, this is a performance not to be missed. Although her voice is perfectly suited to those roles, she was urged to learn some bel canto roles "just for fun" and to develop flexibility.
GeDeane Graham will be covering those same roles but last night she performed "Cruda sorte" from Rossini's L"Italiana in Algeri. She tickled the audience by explaining the aria in colloquial terms but there was nothing colloquial about her singing; it was very classic.
Hilary Hei Lee Law will be covering the role of La Suora Zelatrice but for coaching purposes she sang "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" from Massenet's Werther. She worked on singing more pianissimo and getting the vowels forward. The instruction was of benefit, as it was to the others.
(c) meche kroop
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
|IVAI Italian-Spanish Song Concert--Pianist/Coach Lucy Arner and Participants|
The International Vocal Arts Institute has been helping young singers bridge the gap between studies and professionalism for thirty years, under the guidance of Founder /Artistic Director Joan Dornemann and Music Director Paul Nadler. We just caught up with them last year and was sufficiently impressed that we blocked out as much time as possible to attend their events this year.
IVAI holds these institutes in Asia, Latin America, and Canada. This year's institute drew 80 young singers from 16 countries. It is only one week into the program in residence at Mannes School of Music at the New School. With nearly two weeks left, the young artists are already showing the signs of some excellent coaching, witnessed by the fact that they all had good command of both Italian and Spanish and some good legato technique.
The composition of the group of singers on tonight's program was varied from undergraduate level to singers who have been singing professionally. In the latter category was Banlingyu Ban, a highly gifted soprano from Shanghai who dazzled us recently in her performance as Cio-Cio San with Heartbeat Opera (review archived).
She performed the lovely Verdi song "In solitaria stanza" and we are pleased to report that her appealing stage presence lost nothing by moving from opera stage to recital stage. Her tone is lovely with a special quality in the upper register and she invested the song with convincing passion as the poet laments his very sick beloved Irene.
Her Spanish was equally memorable in a couple of songs from Manuel de Falla's Siete Canciones populares Espanolas. Our hands down favorite was "Asturiana" which she invested with appropriate melancholy.
Another fine singer who appears to be well on her way was mezzo-soprano Mariel Reyes from Veracruz, Mexico. So many fine singers seem to be coming from Mexico lately! We enjoyed her performance of Rosa's aria of jealous fury from Jose Serrano's zarzuela Los Claveles--"Que te importa que no venga". Regular readers will recall how fond we are of zarzuela!
Ms. Reyes closed the program with a trio of songs by Fernando Obradors, each one exhibiting a diifferent mood and sung with different coloration--the frisky "Tres Morillas", the tenderly romantic "Del cabello mas sutil", and the intense and melodic "El Vito". Ms. Reyes truly knows how to get a song across and held our attention with her intensity.
Another singer who possesses this marvelous Latin American sazon is Colombian tenor David Rivera Bozon. The familiar "No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozabal's La Taberna del Puerto was given a highly affecting performance. He also performed a pair of songs by Alberto Ginastera of a rather mournful nature--"Triste" and "La concio del arbol del olvido". Mr. Bozon knows how to get inside a song and make it his own. We couldn't help observing that in the 20th c., when North American songs were being written with impoverished melody, South American composers knew exactly what their audience wanted to hear! And we want to hear it today in the 21st c.!
We particularly enjoyed the flirtatious duet performed by Mr. Bozon and soprano Eugenia Forteza --"Caballero del alto plumero" from Frederico Moreno Torroba's zarzuela Luisa Fernanda. Every time we hear a program of arias from zarzuelas, we wish someone would produce one in its entirety.
Ms. Forteza is from Argentina and selected a pair of songs composed by her countryman Carlos Guastavino. We particularly loved hearing "Bonita rama", the lovesong of a willow tree. We had another opportunity to hear her singing some of the Manuel de Falla songs. Her performance of "Polo" was riveting in its expression of secret sorrow.
We have a couple observations to throw out for singers to consider. One is that the use of a music stand is unacceptable. There were a couple singers whom we decline to name who committed that folly. The consequence is the break of connection with the audience. The performance becomes a private conversation between the singer and the score with the audience "eavesdropping". We have heard every excuse in the book for being on the book. We don't buy it.
The singers in question did sing other material without the use of a score and they were much more effective when not glancing down and turning pages.
Our second observation is that we got the sense that some of the singers were performing songs they didn't particularly care for or to which they didn't relate. The audience can tell, believe us! We will never forget the take home point we got from a master class given by James Levine with the wonderful mezzo Isabel Leonard participating. The point was "Sing what you love!" Great advice from a great teacher.
The fine tenor Hyunho Cho seemed not terribly involved with Tosti's "Malia" but when he sang "Non t'amo piu" he was a different artist completely. He became expansive in his voice and his feelings. We believed in the poet's denial of love and admired the exquisite decrescendo at the end. We also liked the way he sang Joaquin Turina's "Las locas por amor" with a true feeling of fun.
As far as songs to love or not love, our personal feelings were that we'd love to hear more of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari but less of Ottorino Respighi, whose piano writing is lovely (and pianist/coach Lucy Arner surely made the most of it) but whose vocal lines just don't "sing" to us.
(c) meche kroop
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Sunday, June 11, 2017
|The Spirit World--Magda Gartner and her Fairies|
The birth of a new opera company is always a cause for rejoicing but when their debut is as outstanding as that of Gramercy Opera, we find ourselves rather over the moon.
Well actually we found ourselves in a charming verdant private garden on E. 61st St. which had been decorated with strings of twinkling lights and colorful flowers, both nature made and man made. This perfectly suited an entertainment that involves two worlds--the human world and the spirit world.
Leave it to two opera singers to accomplish the impossible! Major props to Magda Gartner and Allison McAuley who joined forces to create Gramercy Opera.
What we experienced with such complete joy had very little to do with what was presented in 1692 as The Fairy Queen, a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell, loosely based on Shakespeare's late 16th c. comedy.
What we experienced was the result of an impressive show of creativity by Director Brittany Goodwin who also adapted William Shakespeare's text from Midsummer Night's Dream and contributed some spoken dialogue of her own. We were wildly impressed!
The music, of course, was by Henry Purcell and was performed by a chamber orchestra using original instruments. There was a string quartet augmented by two trumpets (almost unrecognizable to those accustomed to the modern trumpet) and a pair of oboes d'amore and a harpsichord, all conducted by David Stech. Even without the enrapturing production design by Maria Torffield we would have enjoyed the music.
And what a production it was! Coming in at just under two hours, the production excised the little Indian changeling, the framing device of the marriage of the Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, as well as the gathering of rustics producing a play as entertainment for the festivities involved with said marriage.
Wisely Ms. Goodwin placed the emphasis on the interface between the human world and the spirit world. The humans flee into the woods to escape paternal interference but meet interference from the spirit world. It rests upon Puck's naughtiness to baffle and confuse the lovers--until he finally establishes order.
The cast was flawless. Mezzo-soprano Magda Gartner was perfect as Titania, angry at Oberon for his philandering. As Oberon, baritone Angky Budiardjono had a marvelous sound and exotic look just right for the part. His primary interaction was with the Puck of soprano Chelsea Feltman who both introduced the opera and brought it to a successful conclusion. She was, well, "puckish" in her compelling characterization. She enchanted us!
The fairies included the rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Kat Liu as Cobweb and soprano La Toya Lewis as Mustardseed, who harmonized beautifully in their duet. Sopranos Rachel Duval, Jaeyeon Kim, Megan Brunning, and Sara Lin Yoder added to the fairy fun, along with baritone Frank D. Fainer and tenor Carlos J. Jiminez who sang and danced the role of Cupid.
Now what of the humans! Canadian soprano Allison McAuley was totally convincing as the desperate Helena pursuing the rejecting Demetrius of tenor Daniel Byerly. As "fair Hermia" we heard the lovely soprano Emily Peragine who defied her father to elope with the Lysander of baritone Joey Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez had a great moment as he tried to persuade Hermia to lie closer to him.
We also enjoyed baritone Paul La Rosa's performance as Bottom, who wore his donkey-head quite rakishly.
Did we say how superb all the voices were? We guess we did.
And now to discuss the production which involved some of the most imaginative costuming and makeup one could imagine. We suspect that imagination was in greater supply than funds but one could not tell that from the colorful results.
Ms. Goodwin's direction involved some stunning imagery that lingers in the mind's eye as much as that of Frederick Ashton's ballet The Dream. There were so many magnificent moments both scenic and choreographic that we find ourselves running out of words to praise.
Ms. Goodwin shared with us her casting method which involved asking those auditioning to improvise. That probably explains how integrated the performers were.
We urge our dear readers to see and hear for themselves. We are sure you will be as enchanted as we were. This weekend is sold out but hopefully you will find tickets for next weekend. If you succeed you will be the happier for it.
(c) meche kroop