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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Michael Fennelly, Leo Radosavljevic, Emily Pogorelc, Jane Shaulis, Andres Benavides Cascante, and Jaeman Yoon

Last night was the Opera Index annual membership party which consisted of some exciting entertainment and a buffet supplied by the members, who, we might add, are all given to l'abbondanza. We love great food to go along with great singing.

And great singing was definitely on the menu. Five splendid singers entertained us royally in between les hors d'oeuvres and le grand buffet.

Soprano Hayan Kim performed first since she was on her way to an audition. With a crystalline soprano at her disposal she performed "Je veux vivre" from Charles Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. We were impressed by her ability to engage the audience with her charming stage presence and involvement with the text. She conveyed all the youthful passion required by the role. A fine vibrato ensured that the molecules of air danced around the hall.

Gounod was not the only composer to have tackled Shakespeare's tale of young love. Vincenzo Bellini took a different tack and we were fortunate to hear soprano Emily Pogorelc sing "O quante volte" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi. This aria comes along later in the plot when Juliette has already fallen for Romeo and we had the impression that Ms. Pogorelc knew exactly what she was singing and sang it in beautiful bel canto style.  We liked her phrasing of Bellini's long lines and use of dynamic variation.  And we loved the way pianist Michael Fennelly played Bellini's arpeggi.

Bass-baritone Leo Radosavljevic employed perfect French in his performance of "Riez Allez" from Jules Massenet's Don Quichotte. In this aria Sancho Panza is scolding the people who made fun of his master Don Q. We particularly enjoyed the texture of Mr. Radosavljevic's instrument and his expansive delivery.

Baritone Andres Benavides Cascante evinced a great deal of vocal flexibility in his portrayal of Count Almaviva in "Hai gia vinta la causa" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. The poor Count is clueless and covers it up by being indignant.  All this was conveyed to the audience because Mr. Cascante knew the text and knew it well. 

Baritone Jaeman Yoon wowed the audience with his big round sound and pleasing vibrato as he performed an emotionally intense "Nemico della patria",  Gerard's aria from Umberto Giordano's verismo opera Andrea Chénier.

Three of the artists graciously provided encores of a lighter nature. Ms. Pogorelc performed "Kiss Me Again" from Victor Herbert's comic operetta Mademoiselle Modiste. This is a lovely tuneful song which Ms. Pogorelc graced with some divine portamenti.

Mr. Radosavljevic performed William Bolcom's "Black Max" (our all time favorite Bolcom song). Not since we heard cabaret artist Kim Smith's interpretation have we truly enjoyed this song which requires an enormous amount of dramatic interpretation. We were very impressed by Mr. Radosavljevic's ability to paint a picture with his voice.

And finally, Mr. Cascante sang "Mi Aldea" the opening aria of Jacinto Guerreros' zarzuela Los Gavilanes.  In this opening scene, Juan returns to his village from a long sojourn in Peru. The delivery was delightful and readers may recall how greatly we treasure zarzuelas.

This year Opera Index has awarded $55,000. to 16 singers.  Judging by tonight's sampling, the judges of the competition did a great job winnowing from a large field of applicants. There will be a gala on January 21, 2018, at which we will hear more of the winners.

Opera lovers who have not yet joined Opera Index are encouraged to do so at the modest membership cost of $45. There will be many opportunities to meet fellow opera lovers and help young singers. The list of winners from bygone years is astounding and includes so many of the greatest names in opera.

(c) meche kroop

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