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, December 19, 2017


Pavel Suliandziga

We hear such a plethora of talented young singers every month and it is sad that only a few will achieve their career goals.  Having witnessed the meteoric rise of several that we started writing about when we began blogging in 2010, we would like to think that we have isolated a few qualities that destine some for major careers.

It goes without saying that a beautiful instrument is a great start. It seems obvious that superb instruction in the learning period and good management at the start of a professional career are both vital. Winning competitions is a good addition to all this, although we have observed some major careers launched without this feature. 

We see "humble bragging" on Facebook as a positive impetus, if the singer makes regular appearances online about their engagements, giving credit to colleagues, costumers, and directors. It's a challenge to make this sufficiently interesting that we keep them in our "feed"!

But there is a special quality we can describe but could scarcely name. A true artist draws us into an opera by inhabiting the character so that we experience a scene from his/her point of view. When James Morris sang Wotan, we were on his side. A lesser Wotan allowed us to take Fricka's part.

Similarly, in a lieder recital, the true artist feels the text and sees what the poet describes. He/she conveys this to the audience and we see through the singer's eyes. We see the valley stretched below the mountain on which he sits.  We experience the distance felt by the poet. We hear the birdsong or the rushing of a stream through his/her ears. The singer is our guide through strange territory.

To date we have reviewed tenor Pavel Suliandziga a total of six times.  Each time we have been swept along in a tide of experience. We have written about his Nemorino two years at Mannes College and his Ferrando one year ago and the interpretations were first rate, showing us subtleties about the characters that were new.

Last summer there were two IVAI recitals in which he performed Tamino in a scene from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Tybalt from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. We also heard him sing some Russian folksongs.

Yesterday we were fortunate to attend his graduation recital as he has earned a degree in Professional Studies under the tutelage of famed voice teacher Arthur Levy; this goes beyond the Master of Music degree previously earned. Hearing him perform lieder was a new experience and only enhanced our appreciation of his artistry and affirmed our belief in his promise.

Mr. Suliandziga possesses one of the sweetest tenors we have ever heard, one which caresses the ear; he employs it skillfully with all manner of dynamic control and meaningful phrasing. He knows what he is singing about!

The first half of the program was sung in German. Consonants were crisp but without exaggeration and the vowels were never cheated. Every word was comprehensible.  Beethoven's  song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, comprises six songs of separation and was filled with sehnsucht and tenderness. The mood was sustained during the interludes. The major/minor shifts were beautifully realized. There was a splendid spin on the held notes.

Collaborative pianist Miriam Leskis was with him 100% and we loved the way the phrases echoed back and forth from voice to piano.  Our only complaint was the use of the music stand.  Yes, we realize that this is a very long piece, but the subsequent Schubert lieder were short and the music stand remained in place.

"An den Mond" is a lovely song and Ms. Leskis' piano gave us arpeggi that we associate with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Perhaps Schubert was inspired by it. In "Du bist die Ruh" we were dazzled by a highly effective messa di voce.

Thankfully, the music stand was banished for the memorable "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Fran Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns, which we so enjoyed seeing at Manhattan School of Music last year. Being "off book" allowed Mr. Suliandziga to fully communicate with the audience the passion of this glorious song.

The second half of the program was entirely Russian. Since the titles were in Russian and there was no translation to English of title or text, we were at the mercy of the artist's interpretive skills. In point of fact, the emotions and situations came through clearly.

There were four wonderful songs by Glinka, father of Russian music, the first of which we heard last week at Juilliard "Ya pomnyu chudnoe" which translates roughly to "I remember that magical moment". In this song, the poet Pushkin consoles himself in a state of grief with a memory of a woman from his past.

In "Bedny pevets", the sadness that was communicated involved the lost hopes of a man disappointed in love. The sad songs were interleaved with joyful ones. "Ya zdes, Inezilya" was a playful serenade that brought to mind Rossini's lively music. And "V krovi gorit" was composed in waltz rhythm with a lively "oompah" in the piano.

Of the three songs by Tchaikovky, the only one we recognized was "Sred shumnogo bala" with a lovely text by Tolstoy, which also deals with a fond memory of a mysterious woman. "Mi sideli s toboy" is a regretful song about a lost moment in which a man was unable to make a declaration of love  during an intimate moment. He lost the girl.

"To bylo ranneyu vesnoy" spoke to rebirth and renewal and was given an earnest delivery. We would gladly have stayed for a repeat of both the Glinka songs and those by Tchaikovsky!

We also heard two folk songs. The first was a frisky one in which a boy is trying to get the girl by making promises. The second one was one of longing for the homeland. We hope Mr. Suliandziga does not suffer too much from homesickness. We want him to stay in the USA! We are not the only one to appreciate his gifts. The applause was thunderous and Mr. Suliandziga has already received several offers--all well deserved!

(c) meche kroop

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