MISSION

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.

Monday, November 13, 2017

WAGNER LEIT by NEW AMSTERDAM OPERA

Terina Westmeyer, Maestro Keith Chambers, Maestro Thomas Bagwell, Janara Kellerman, Hyona Kim, Megan Nielson, Kirsten Chambers, Thomas Hall, Melissa Citro, Heather Green, Tyler Smith and Errin Brooks

A late afternoon of Wagner on a cool Autumn afternoon seemed like a great idea and drew us up to Riverside Theater, the comfortable venue within Riverside Church where New Amsterdam Opera makes its home. But we can't help recalling that Wagner's own concept was that of "gesamtkunstwerk"--a work bringing together all the arts, aural and visual.

Planning a few arias in concert version gave us an opportunity to hear some new singers and to hear some others with whom we are acquainted and who are now essaying the Wagnerian repertory, with some interesting results. But we missed the staging, the costumes, the drama, and the sets. That most of the singers were on the book made attempts at acting look just plain silly. Supposed lovers rarely made eye contact!

At this point, let us give props to dramatic soprano Terina Westmeyer who sang Brunnhilde in "Wotan's Farewell" with dramatic baritone Thomas Hall as her father. The two sang without music stands for which we were grateful. We have favorably reviewed Ms. Westmeyer as Lady Billows in Britten's Albert Herring at the Bronx Opera and as La Badessa in Puccini's Suor Angelica. Three years ago we loved her singing of Verdi.

But we have not been present for her Wagner and we were delighted with the power of her voice and the tonal beauty. We see a lot of Wagner in her future and hope to hear more of it. Mr. Hall did not sound beautiful but he followed this scene with Siegfried's confrontation with Erda in which he sounded far better. Perhaps he just needed to warm up.

Erda was sung by mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim, whose dark chocolate sound was excellent for the role.  Ms. Kim first appeared on our radar screen four years ago when she won the Joy of Singing Award. Indeed, she is a superlative lieder recitalist who has been making inroads into the operatic repertory. She is such a fine actress that she dissolves into the part, as she did when she sang Suzuki in Puccini's Madama Butterfly with Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance and Wokli in his Fanciulla del West with New York City Opera.

We are also familiar with the work of mezzo-soprano Janara Kellerman whom we enjoyed greatly in the role of Preziosilla with New Amsterdam Opera's recent production of Verdi's Forza del Destino. Her plush sound was enjoyed and noted in the role of Mamma Lucia in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana with Martha Cardona Opera and Santuzza with New Amsterdam Opera. It was a thrill to hear her expand her repertory into Wagnerian territory.

Soprano Megan Nielson has delighted us as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin with Utopia Opera and as Nedda in Opera Ithaca's production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. We also remember her performance as the eponymous Suor Angelica presented by Chelsea Opera. Yesterday, she showed a lot of promise in Wagnerian territory singing Elsa in a scene from Lohengrin, with Ms. Kellerman adding some interesting texture as the conniving Ortrud and Mr. Hall as fellow conniver Telramund.

Tenor Errin Brooks seems to have gotten his huge instrument under better control and did well as the rejected Erik with soprano Heather Green as Senta in a scene from Der fliegende Hollander.

New to us is tenor Tyler Smith whose sizable instrument was colored with tenderness in the "Liebesnacht" from Tristan und Isolde with the beautiful soprano Kristin Chambers as his scene partner. We liked the way he modulated, successfully employing dynamic variety.  We have enjoyed Ms. Chambers more in other roles such as Fidelio. Ms. Kellerman lent gravity to the situation as Brangäne.

Mr. Smith appeared once again in the final scene of the program in which he has awakened the sleeping Brünnhilde, sung by soprano Melissa Citro.

We found no fault with the German. Alles klar!

Accompanists for the evening were beyond superb. Both Maestri Keith Chambers and Thomas Bagwell elicited most of Wagner's orchestral magic on the piano. Often, when the singers fail to connect with us (usually due to flipping pages on the music stand) our attention shifted to the piano and we heard things in the score that we might have missed.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of New Amsterdam Opera's first Pathfinder Award to Maestra Eve Queler who broke the glass ceiling for female conductors. Ms. Queler is a girl after our own heart, and we are calling her a girl because she has never lost that youthful quality that we so admire.

We have so many memories of hiking up to the highest level of Carnegie Hall, where the sound is best, to be introduced to rarely performed and forgotten operas and new singers--right up until last year's production of Donizetti's Parisina d'Este. Ms. Queler founded Opera Orchestra of New York in 1971 when there were no female conductors. Brava Eve!

She has plenty of European fame that we haven't experienced but we tend to personalize things and the above describes our Eve Queler. Just one more note of interest is that she has shared all of her scores with New Amsterdam Opera. Dare we hope that we will hear repeats of these rarely produced operas?  Let us hope!

(c) meche kroop


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