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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Career Bridges Grant Winners

Career Bridges held their 16th annual gala concert and dinner last night at the Metropolitan Club. Citizens of Planet Opera gathered to honor distinguished soprano Martina Arroyo, whose Prelude to Performance has done so much to help young singers to launch their careers. Her Lifetime Achievement Award is so well deserved!

Patron of the Arts Award was given to Joan Taub Ades, a philanthropist on many fronts, famous at Manhattan School of Music for endowing the Ades Performing Space and for establishing the Ades Competition which, coincidentally, we reviewed last night. Scroll down to read about it. As if that were not enough, she started "Joan's Closet" which provides appropriate gowns for female singers.

What is unique about Career Bridges, founded by David Schuyler Bender and Barbara Meister Bender, is that they make a three year commitment to the chosen singers, providing training, mentoring, financial support, and performance opportunities. They also bring opera to young school children, whose ears, hearts, and minds are thirsty for this most absorbing of all the arts.

The entertainment portion of the evening was most generous, and continued all through dinner. Not only did we hear 2018 winners but also winners from prior years and guest artist tenor Jonathan Tetelman.

There were so many excellent performances we don't know where to begin. So let's begin at the beginning when mezzo-soprano Rachel Arky (2012) and baritone Robert Balonek (2007) got the evening off to a great start with the charming Papageno-Papagena duet from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. The audience went wild when he picked her up in his arms and carried her offstage.

Baritone Michael Gracco (2018) gave a powerful performance of Valentin's aria "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Gounod's Faust. Mezzo-soprano Yinpei Han (2018) was artistically forceful in Dorabella's aria "Smanie implacabili" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

Baritone Matthew Ciuffitelli was appropriately annoyed as Count Almaviva in "Hai gia vinta la causa" from Mozart's Nozze di Figaro. Soprano Brittany Nickell reprised her "signature aria" "Robert, toi que j'aime" from Meyerbeer's Robert le diable with the fine French we well remember.

Baritone Emmet O'Hanlon (2018), whose Juilliard days we fondly recall, gave a landmark performance of "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Soprano Emily Misch (2017) performed the delightful "Ch'il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine.

Super-charged baritone Joshua Conyers (2018) lent his large instrument and dramatic intensity to "Nemico della patria" from Giordano's Andrea Chenier. Soprano Megan Nielson (2016) sang "To this we've come" from Menotti's The Consul. There is no denying her artistry but we wish she had chosen a different aria. We have heard her many times and love her voice but that aria just doesn't do it for us.

What did do it for us was baritone Hubert Zapior (2018) who sang Eugene Onegin's aria "Kogda bi zhizn domashnim" by Tchaikovsky. This was a special treat because Mr. Zapior just appeared on our radar screen this year and because this is the year we have developed a fondness for Russian opera. The performance was flawless and character driven.

From Cilea's rarely heard L'Arlesiana, tenor Jonathan Tetelman sang a beautifully rendered "Il lamento di Federico", filled with sorrow and longing.

Soprano Teresa Castillo (2017)was glittery and gay in Bernstein's sensational aria from Candide and captured Cunegonde's dual nature. Baritone SeungHyeon Baek (2015) performed his "signature aria"--the Prologue from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci--and was just as superb as we remembered.

An inspirational closing was provided, as it was last year, by baritone Jesse Malgieri singing a medley of Mitch Leigh's "Impossible Dream", from Man of La Mancha, and Richard Rodgers' "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music

With such a wealth of talent in every fach, performing the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto was a kind of foregone conclusion and we very much enjoyed Ms. Misch, Ms. Arky, Mr. Tetelman, and Mr. Balonek whose voices blended beautifully.

Music Director for the evening was Ted Taylor and the host was WQXR's Robert Sherman. It seemed like everyone in the room was on the same page, doing whatever they could with whatever resources they have, to foster these brilliant young singers. We loved each and every one of them and imagine they will all go far!

(c) meche kroop

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