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, June 18, 2017


Opera Stars of the Future at IVAI recital

As promised, we returned to Mannes for another recital and we are so glad we made the time. This "International Song Concert" had a unique feature that was revelatory, showing us new things about singers we had heard at earlier recitals. Participants offered songs in the languages of their birth or heritage--mainly folk songs. The expansion of their involvement was a joy to hear and there was nary a music stand in sight. Singers who appeared a trifle nervous or constricted at other times were relaxed and highly communicative last night. Our "newbie" guest had a wonderful time as well. It was a wonderful entry level recital for the uninitiated!

Notable for a spirited delivery was tenor Hyunho Cho who negotiated the plentiful consonants of Korean without cheating any of the vowels, of which there are far more than we have in English! We don't recall hearing Korean sung before but we enjoyed the two songs a great deal.

Mandarin established a firm presence by way of beautiful Banlingyu Ban who sang a love song with ardent feeling and a gorgeous upper register. And tenor Fanyong Du closed the program with folk songs about nature which permitted him to show off some very subtle variations of color and dynamics and a kind of jazzy bending of tone. We have appreciated Mr. Du's performances for some time in the standard repertory, but this singular performance took our appreciation to an entire new level.

Both Russian and Ukrainian were on the program and, sad to say, we can not tell the difference. But we can tell a good performance when we hear and see one! Tenor Pavel Suliandziga exhibited the same captivating stage presence as he has in more traditional performances. There was a patriotic folksong and also one about a boy trying to seduce a girl; we would guess that it was the audience who got seduced.

Soprano Tatiana Mills gained her knowledge of Russian from her mother and shared with us two charming songs, one by Alexander Dargomyzhsky and the other by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Ms. Mills is the youngest participant but already on her way.

We didn't get a chance to learn how soprano Virginia Sheffield came by her Russian but anyone who sings Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Oh, never sing to me again" gets our vote! If there is a more evocative representation of homesickness in the repertory we have yet to hear it. Similarly, soprano Kyaunnee Richardson delighted us with two Rachmaninoff songs--"Ostrovok" and "Siren", which was filled with sweetness. We were happy to witness her ability to connect with the audience without distraction from looking at the score.

Tenor Alexei Kuznietsov performed two Ukrainian songs, one by Vasyl Barvinsky and the other by Denys Sichynsky. He exhibited fine dynamic control and a wealth of expressiveness. There was a gorgeous messa di voce that was memorable.

Our only experience with Greek songs has been highly amplified popular songs in nightclubs, so we are grateful to the two artists who introduced us to some splendid music. Soprano EphiGenia Kastanas generously offered four lovely songs. We loved the lullaby which had a melody in an exotic mode but our favorite was "To Layarni" by Spyridon Spathis in which a shepherd mourns the theft of his favorite rare black lamb. Pianist Peiwen Chen successfully imitated the sound of a bouzouki. "To mauro Yemeni" brought in a sense of fun and Ms. Kastanas let loose with a bit of dancing.

Soprano Alexia Mate exhibited a finely texture vibrato in a song by Stavros Xarchakos and also in a French song by Eva Dell'acqua entitled "Villanelle". We couldn't stop thinking about "Stridono lassu" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, with a woman envying the freedom of birds.

Latin America was also well represented with Argentinian soprano Eugenia Forteza performing two songs from her country, sung in Argentinian dialect.  Floro Ugarte's "Caballito Criollo" had a sprightly nature and we mean to ask Ms. Forteza about the symbolism.  Carlos Guastavino's "La rosa y el sauce" is the sad tale of love lost when the willow's beloved rose was plucked. This was one of the few songs on the program that we have heard before and we liked Ms, Forteza's interpretation.

Mexican powerhouse mezzo-soprano Mariel Reyes Gil has a special affinity for Maria Grever and we were delighted to hear "Despedida" and the well-known "Jurame", both sung with great passion. Ms. Reyes has an unusual timbre for her fach and we could feel vibrations in our own head that we have never before experienced.

Soprano Sofia Sanchez sang a couple of Mexican love songs and we particularly enjoyed "No niegues que me quisiste" by Jorge del Moral. We noticed an increase in her ability to communicate the feeling of a song, a most welcome piece of growth!

Colombian tenor David Rivera Bozon performed Jaime Leon's "Si no fuera por ti" which gave him plenty to do with his lovely middle voice. We thought the tessitura suited his voice better than William Dawson Jr.'s "Cancion del Otono". He also sang Ernest Charles' "When I have sung my songs" in perfectly understandable English (quite a feat) and only a trace of accent.

Another one of Mr. Dawson's songs was performed by Ms. Gil. Mr. Dawson was an Afro-American but found these lovely songs in Mexico.

And finally, thanks to tenor Stefan Djokovic, we were introduced to some Serbian songs which he sang with depth of feeling and a lovely pianissimo. "Trust that I love you" had a lovely sentiment and "Three times I knocked" had some wonderfully rhythmic stuff going on in the piano accompaniment.

(c) meche kroop

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