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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Pavel Suliandziga, Jarvis Dams, Claire Wilmoth, Olivia Ottinger, and Amanda Panaccione

Instead of another "curtain call" photo, we have decided to give our readers a better idea of what we experienced at last night's IVAI recital of opera duets, trios, and ensembles. If you haven't already guessed, Mozart's Die Zauberflote was the source of this scene from Act I in which the three ladies (sopranos Amanda Panaccione, Claire Wilmoth, and Olivia Ottinger) have just given  Tamino the titular Magic Flute.  And what a scene that was with the three ladies harmonizing beautifully and Pavel Suliandziga giving us all the drama and vocalism we want in Tamino. As Papageno, baritone Jarvis Dams was hilarious trying to express himself with a lock on his mouth.

A second Papageno (baritone Evan Henke) performed a charming scene with the exciting young soprano Melody Yun Xie  who is so well-named. "Bei Mannern" is melodic and tender, and just right for Melody and Mr. Henke.

With a program this uniformly excellent, it is difficult to single out the ones that were outstanding. Everything was memorable.

The idea of presenting the opening scene of Puccini's Manon Lescaut followed by the same opening scene from Massenet's Manon was a brilliant one. The story is a very French one and perhaps that gave Massenet's a slight edge, although we must say that the appropriately named Nanyoung Song  matched incredibly well with the Des Grieux of Fanyoung Du. Both are possessors of gorgeous instruments which they use well to create believable characters. Mr. Du was convincingly smitten and Ms. Song showed evidence of the high spirits that will create so many problems later in the opera. That they sang in fine French style was a bonus.

In the Puccini, tenor Alexei Kuznietsov revealed a sizable instrument that bodes well for his future. He sang his "Cortese damigella" to soprano Lisa Faieta with great conviction and passion. Ms. Faieta maintained her modest air almost to the end when they ran offstage. We were glad to hear more of her as Donna Elvira in a scene from Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Bass-baritone Lawson Anderson impressed us in two roles, demonstrating a real feel for Mozart and an equal feel for complicated male characters. As Don Giovanni in the aforementioned scene, he was busy trying to persuade Donna Anna (soprano Claire Jihye Choi) and Don Ottavio (tenor Eric Alexieff) that Donna Elvira was crazy.  The scene was his and we were captivated by the texture of his voice and the intensity of his acting.

He was equally fine as Figaro in Mozart's Nozze di Figaro and sang the opening scene with soprano Sofia Sanchez as his Susana. Ms. Sanchez is not the only singer to blossom in an operatic role, making a far greater impression than when delivering a song.

Figaro's Act IV aria "Aprite un po' quegli occhi" was delivered with great indignance over his bride's supposed betrayal. Meanwhile, soprano Kyaunnee Richardson had a fine time teasing him with "Deh vieni non tardar". When we hear of Mr. Anderson performing either role in toto, we will SO be there!

The third Susana of the evening was Ashley Alden who teased Evan Henke's Almaviva in the excellent duet "Crudel, perche fin'ora". This group of IVAI singers responded so well to Mozart, bringing his music to vivid life.

We recently heard soprano Banlingyu Ban's Cio-cio San at Heartbeat Opera so we were not at all surprised by the excellence of her performance last night in the duet "Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia" --the performance itself filled with malia! But we were astonished by the ardent performance of tenor Yang Chen. Both artists have ping-y qualities to their instruments and a most affecting quality.

And finally, from Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor, two sopranos (Ashley Alden and Amanda Panaccione) got to duke it out while tenor Eric Alexieff tried to make peace. We saw that opera not too long ago in Santa Fe and have always enjoyed that scene, although, truth to tell, the sopranos we know are uniformly supportive of one another. But still the cliche is a funny one and satisfies those opera goers who would like to imagine catfights between rivals.  And now, we are thinking of Rossini's "Miaou" and if you've never heard that piece of vocal one upmanship, do give it a listen.

Stage Directors for the evening were Joshua Major and Dietlinde Maazel. Conductors were Maestri Paul Nadler and Brent Chancellor.  Pianists/coaches were Lucy Arner, Liora Maurer, and Jane Steele.

For lots of photos of these scenes, please see our Facebook Page, Voce di Meche.

(c) meche kroop

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