Thursday, October 19, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
|Danny Miller, Vasilisa Atanackovic, and Alison Miller|
We are accustomed to hearing voice with piano or guitar accompaniment or with full orchestra so the novelty of the arrangements by violinist Danny Miller allowed us to hear familiar works with fresh ears.
Aside from arias performed by the engaging soprano Vasilisa Atanackovic, the four member ensemble performed instrumental versions of operatic highlights. When they played Mozart's "Porgi amor" from Nozze di Figaro, we could see the Countess and hear her voice in our head.
The "Meditation" from Massenet's Thais was absolutely gorgeous and featured Alison Miller's violin. "Casta diva" from Bellini's Norma featured Mr. Veerappan's clarinet. Similarly gorgeous was the "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Mr. Holman's piano was exceptional in the "Intermezzo" from Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
But it was the singer we came to hear, so let us praise Ms. Atanackovic's bright and beautiful soprano and her passionate involvement in getting the arias across. Dvorak's shimmering score for Russalka lost little in translation (or rather arrangement) and Ms. Atanackovic melded beautifully with Mr. Holman's piano part. We loved the Bohemian harmonies and the way her voice swelled in the upper register.
Liu's plea "Tu che di gel" from Puccini's Turandot came across well and we loved the Rachmaninoff song "Polubila ya" (I have grown fond of sorrow).
We hate to harp on things that detract from an otherwise stellar performance but the dreaded music stand appeared, disappeared, and reappeared on several occasions. It truly is a barrier between singer and audience. The singer makes contact and then that slender thread is broken every time she glances down and turns a page.
Actually, we were quite surprised that this happened with a singer so intensely intent on communicating--especially at the end of a tour! In "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (the opening piece) she lost us and we found ourselves shifting our attention to the unusual instrumental arrangement. Since Lauretta is pleading for something, it was particularly egregious to not focus on an imaginary Babbo in the audience.
Also on the program was the famous Neapolitan song "O sole mio" and the famous Spanish song "Besame mucho" performed with just the piano and marked by dynamic variety and rubato. "Black Swan" from Menotti's The Medium (just reviewed a couple days ago) would have been so much better off the book!
There was a very emotional delivery of "Vissi d'arte" from Puccini's Tosca (an opera we are going to review in a couple days) but we have saved the best for last because this must be Ms. Atanovackovic's signature role--"Senza mamma" from Puccini's Suor Angelica. Everything was there and we could appreciate not only the wonderful instrument but the phrasing and, above all, the connection with the audience that allowed us to really feel the text. A major score!
We hope that when this excellent ensemble returns that the music stand will have been relegated to the ash heap!
(c) meche kroop
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Friday, October 6, 2017
|Joshua Conyers, Kasia Borowiec, Kelsey Robertson, Derrek Stark, and Timothy Cheung|
The Palme d'Or is a French award given in the film industry. But we would like to offer a Golden Palm to Palm Beach Opera for their impressive success in fostering the growth of young singers. More on that later but let's begin with the four splendid singers who graced the stage of Scorca Hall last night at the National Opera Center.
In a very brief hour that seemed to fly by, we got a very good picture of the wide ranging gifts of these four artist who came to represent Palm Beach Opera, founded in 1961. Three of the artists were known to us and one was a wonderful discovery.
We first heard soprano Kasia Borowiec four years ago in Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All at Manhattan School of Music. The following year we heard her Giulietta in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. In the summer of 2016 at Santa Fe Opera we loved her Tatiana and we guess SFO loved her equally because they cast her in the title role of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel!
Last night we heard even more of her. Her rich lyric soprano was employed effectively in "Porgi amor" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro which she performed with a touching combination of dignity and despair. In "Das war sehr gut, Mandryka" from Richard Strauss' Arabella, we were dazzled by the soaring expansion of her upper register.
In the duet "Prendero quel brunettino" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, we noticed that she does very well as a scene partner, abandoning her modest self-presentation to relate warmly and appropriately with mezzo-soprano Kelsey Robertson who portrayed Dorabella to Ms. Borowiec's Fiordiligi.
Similarly she responded with touching innocence to the Pinkerton of tenor Derek Stark in "Vogliatemi bene" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The multipotentiality of her artistry will be great fun to watch as it evolves.
We heard the terrific tenor Derrek Stark two years in a row in Santa Fe as part of the Apprentice Artists Program. In 2015 he was a delightful David in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, and the following year we enjoyed his Edgardo in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.
Last night we could appreciate how his voice has grown in his stirring performance of "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca which he imbued with deep emotion and dynamic variety. He seems to be headed in a Puccini direction, performing the role of Pinkerton (with Ms. Borowiec) with appropriate arrogance, clearly showing that her worshipful adoration was met with his lust.
In "O Mimi, tu piu non torni" from Puccini's La Boheme, his Rodolfo was well matched by baritone Joshua Conyers, as the two men lament their lost loves in gorgeous harmony.
We also remember Mr. Conyers from his performances in the Apprentice Program of Santa Fe Opera where we heard him in 2013 and 2014 singing Berlioz, Handel, and Puccini. He has a sizable voice of power and dimension which made him a compelling Tonio, delivering the prologue to Leoncavallo's Pagliacci--"Si puo", successfully drawing the audience into the brutal drama to follow.
His powerful baritone was just right for "O Tixo, Tixo, help me" from Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars, an eloquent depiction of moral crisis as the priest tries to decide whether to counsel his son to lie and save his life or tell the truth and hang. A tragic tale well told! And Mr. Conyers' English diction was so fine that we understood every word. And that's never to be taken for granted.
New to us was mezzo-soprano Kelsey Robertson who made an excellent impression and left us wanting more. She has a graceful and winning stage presence, a lovely mezzo texture to her instrument, and fine skills with fioritura.
The material she chose was perfect to highlight her special skills. We do love our Rossini and hardly ever get to hear his Tancredi. Ms. Robertson's performance of "Di tanti palpiti" evinced precision in the ornamentation and skips. No carelessness there!
Similarly "Dopo notte" from Handel's Ariodante was performed in apt baroque style and emotional expression achieved not just in the voice but in facial expression and bodily gesture. These same skills were brought to bear on the Cosi duet which was completely charming, especially at the end with both she and Ms. Borowiec jumping for joy as they considered flirting with the two "new" men. This is an artist we cannot wait to hear again.
The capstone of the program was the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto, performed with dramatic commitment and gorgeous vocal blending. Ms. Borowiec's Gilda was appropriately shocked and dismayed, Mr. Conyers' Rigoletto was partly sympathetic and partly confrontational, Ms. Robertson's Maddalena was cynical but half won over, and Mr. Stark's Duke was even more lustful than his Pinkerton. (Is there a theme here?)
Accompanist for the evening was pianist Timothy Cheung.
The audience was welcomed by Laura Lee Everett, Director of Artistic Services at Opera America. The Emerging Artist Recitals reflect the joint efforts of Opera America and its member companies to identify and nurture the careers of the most promising young artists. These recitals are live streamed to a growing international audience so that these young artists are exposed to producers and casting professionals. What a win-win situation!
Palm Beach Opera is one of the member companies participating in this excellent program. They have an Apprentice Artist Program which offers a 5-month residency to recent graduates who aim to gain experience at the professional level and also receive regular coaching and onstage experience.
They also have The Benenson Young Artist Program for post-graduate and emerging singers--also a 5-month residency in which they get performance opportunities and guidance from the artistic staff of the company. The four singers we heard tonight belong to a group of 18.
Furthermore they offer community outreach and educational opportunities. We award Palm Beach Opera a Golden Palm!
(c) meche kroop
|Joshua Conyers, Kasia Borowiec, Kelsey Robertson, Derrek Stark, and Timothy Cheung at the National Opera Center (photo by Frank Ammaccapane, Natural Expressions NY Photography)|