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, October 29, 2017


Lachlan Glen and Ben Bliss at Mise en Scene Studios event

The gestation period for Mise en Scene Studios is a long one. There are excellent physicians and midwives in attendance. The embryo is healthy--viable and kicking. The nursery is well-furnished and friends and relatives are lined up to greet the newcomer. This love child will reflect the many gifts of its parents and will be quite different from any other--a unique offspring.

We have been present since the egg was fertilized and cannot wait to welcome the new opera company to its New York home. While we are waiting the parents have invited us to some baby showers, along with all the other citizens of Planet Opera who are just as excited as we are.

Last night, in a spacious loft in the East Village, we socialized with a great group of equally enthusiastic folk.  We dined on custom made pizza, we drank wine, we talked about music, we toasted the happy parents-to-be. And, most importantly, we heard some exciting music that gives us a taste of the quality we can expect from this nascent group.

Entertaining us royally were tenor Ben Bliss and collaborative pianist Lachlan Glen (both graduates  of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program), along with soprano Leah Hawkins and The Verona String Quartet. Mr. Bliss has had a meteoric rise and sings at The Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Glen tours the world and captivates audiences everywhere as a solo star of the keyboard and as a collaborative pianist.

Soprano Leah Hawkins came to us from the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. She is one of those big beautiful women with big beautiful voices. She performed two songs by Francis Poulenc, the first a 1938 setting of text written in 1912 by Wilhelm Kostrowicki (known as Apollinaire). Ms. Hawkins fine vibrato and word coloration made clear that the song "La grenouillere" (the Froggery) was about nostalgia for les temps perdus.

Her second offering was "Les chemins de l'amour" the 1940 setting of text by Jean Anouilh, which shared the nostalgic feeling and had a similar "old-fashioned" feeling as the first melodie, a quality that we treasure. Ms. Hawkins knows how to spin a decrescendo into a fine silken thread of sound.

The Verona String Quartet, comprising Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro, violins, Abigail Rojansky, viola, and Warren Hagerty, cello are all graduates of Juilliard and have achieved significant fame in the four years they have spent together. Residencies at Caramoor and at the New England Conservatory have been added to their graduate residency at Juilliard.

Last night we got a taste of their talent as they performed with Mr. Glen a most successful arrangement of an excerpt from Prokofiev's 1936 Romeo and Juliet, a suite for orchestra. It was so evocative that we couldn't keep from visualizing the ballet itself, which we love.

They also performed the second movement of Borodin's 1881 String Quartet No. 2 which was made popular by being "borrowed" for the 1953 musical Kismet. The writing is lush and melodic and is one of our personal favorites among so many string quartets.

Joined by Dominik Belavy and Alex Rosen for the "Laughing Trio", Mr. Bliss blissed us out with "Un aura amorosa" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. He will be performing the role of Ferrando at The Metropolitan Opera this coming Spring and audiences will surely go mad for him. His ardent lyric tenor is perfectly suited to Mozart.

Mr. Glen then joined The Verona Quartet for the fiendishly difficult and spirited final movement of Brahms' Piano Quintet in G minor, following which the four strings gave us the first movement of Ravel's String Quartet which sounded just as anxious as the first movement of the Grieg which we heard a couple days earlier.

Not to worry because we were soothed by a duet from Franz Lehar's Die lustige Witwe. Mr. Bliss sang the role of Camille, persuading Valencienne (Ms. Hawkins) to join him in the little pavilion for a fond farewell. We were very glad to hear it in German!

The final offering was "This is My Night to Dream" by James Monaco and Johnny Burke, popularized by Nat King Cole. We thought the entire night was a dream!

Before we end, we would like to direct you to www.messnyc.com/membership. Did we tell you that YOU TOO can become a member of this vibrant and rapidly growing organization. A mere $99 for an entire year will give you admission to several evenings similar to the one we just described. This should keep all of us entertained and engaged until the opera season begins. That's the baby for which we are all waiting.

It is clear that those of us addicted to great music will find the quality we demand, whilst curious friends can be invited to share in the good fellowship, food, and drink and be introduced to the best the music world can offer in a relaxed and sociable environment. We do believe that the best way to get "newbies" on board is to offer quality.

(c) meche kroop

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