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, October 10, 2017


Sebastian Giunta, Candace Chien, Anna Tonna, Mary Thorne, and Mario Arevalo

We support any expansion of the presence of Latin Music in New York and applaud the enthusiasm of the group of artists who added to the celebration of Hispanic Day in New York City yesterday.

Shetler Studios hosted the event Latins in New York which presented art songs by Hispanic Composers from 1945 to the present. Tenor Mario Arevalo, who is new to us, welcomed the sizable audience and invited us to share his delight in Latin Music.

Mr. Arevalo has a beautiful instrument, an effortless tone, and a warm Latin sound that helps to put a song across. His opening offering was the charming "Damisela encantadora" by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona that was unfortunately marred by the use of the loathed music stand. Readers know how strongly we feel about its impairment of connection with the audience.

Fortunately, one of the artists went to the effort of memorizing his material and it just so happened to be the magnificent baritone Steven LaBrie whom we just reviewed two days ago for his sensational performance with the Brooklyn Art Song Society. We are happy to report that his artistry is no less wonderful in Spanish than it was in the French melodie.

We know not whether he chose the songs he would sing but the choices were the best on the program.  Or maybe it's just Mr. LaBrie's artistry that we loved.  His performance of Mexican composer Maria Grever's early 20th c. songs blurred the boundary between so-called popular song and art song. "Alma mia" revealed the depth of his feelings through a full rich tone.

Further, there was a convincing performance of Grever's "Munequita linda" in which the delicacy of collaborative pianist Candace Chien matched his own.  We swoon over these gorgeous diminuendos every time! The pair was equally fine in the sad song of farewell "Despedida", and the intense expansiveness of Grever's "Jurame".

From the same generation of Mexican composers, Manuel Ponce composed "Estrellita" which also delighted our ear. Significantly, our guest, who speaks no Spanish and has never attended a vocal recital, was overcome by the sound of Mr. LaBrie's voice and the intensity of his dramatic presentation. These songs were the highlight of the afternoon recital.

Our guest also volunteered his dismay over the incomprehensibility of the English text in Cuban composer Jorge Martin's cycle A Cuban in Vermont: Five Simple Songs, a 2003 composition that was receiving its New York City premiere.  Pianist Sebastian Giunta pounded out the jazzy rhythms at top volume drowning out the voice of soprano Mary Thorne whom we have heard before with Amore Opera and whom we hope to hear again-- singing different repertoire.

There was also a world premiere on the program-- two selections from El Salvadoran composer Juan Guerra Gonzalez' Mis Once Letras. The works required much explanation in the program but, in our opinion, good art reaches its audience without commentary. These songs did not reach us although Mr. Arevalo put his all into getting them across. Of the two selections we preferred "Mucho mas que amor" to which Mr. Arevalo's warm romantic sound was particularly suited. But the presence of the music stand was an obstacle to our feeling involved.

Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera was represented by a trio of songs from his cycle Cinco canciones populares in which we noted Mr. Arevalo's skillful vocalise introduction to "Triste"and Mr. Giunta's lively rhythms in "Gato". We'd love to hear the entire cycle "off the book".

Similarly, the lovely tones of Anna Tonna's warm mezzo-soprano were put to good use in selections from Cuban composer Julian Orbon's Libro de Cantares. We liked the lullaby "Anada", the lively "Giraldilla", and the deeply felt "Cancion". Someday we hope to hear the songs "off the book" to fully appreciate them without distraction. 

Ms. Chien's piano was particularly lovely in the "Preludio". 

Ms. Tonna's performance of Colombian composer Jaime Leon's "A ti" was ardent and heartfelt whilst "La hija del viejo Pancho" was full of life and seemed to connect more with the audience.

We hope that the next concert given by this group will be given without music stands and perhaps with printed text for audience members who don't speak Spanish.

(c) meche kroop

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