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, June 28, 2018


Dan Saunders, Gabriella Reyes de Ramirez, Gerard Schneider, and Adrian Timpau
We have no idea whether the audience members who cheerfully sat in the drizzle last night are regulars at The Metropolitan Opera, or whether they have ever been there.  No matter. The Met brings operas to the boroughs of Manhattan and we applaud the institution for spreading the culture far and wide. We would be surprised if they didn't make some new converts, based upon the very high level of artistry we witnessed.

With the always wonderful Dan Saunders accompanying, three impressive talents joined forces for an all-too-brief (but nonetheless satisfying) recital of operatic favorites. We wanted the evening to never end!

Tenorrific Gerard Schneider opened the program with the rousing "Questa o quella" from Verdi's Rigoletto, leaving us no doubt about the Duke's fickle personality. What we love about Mr. Schneider's technique is that he knows how to float a high note and never pushes his voice. To hear a delicately floated pianissimo is a delight; to produce such a phenomenon seems out of reach to most tenors who think that their top notes must be fortissimo. 

Baritone Adrian Timpau brought Da Ponte's clueless Count Almaviva to vivid life in "Hai già vinta la causa" from Mozart's Nozze di Figaro. He nailed Almaviva's personality and did so with a unique tonal quality that made us think of corduroy, for some strange reason, perhaps because it is plush like velvet but with more texture.

Soprano Gabriella Reyes de Ramirez gazed upward when singing "Stridono lassu" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and we saw the birds through her eyes whilst her voice trilled away with its gorgeous vibrato. The illusion was fostered by Mr. Saunder's piano.

With those three fachs on hand, of course we had to hear the trio from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. Adina gets to relish the enviable position of having Nemorino and Belcore competing for her attention in "Tran, tran, tran, tran". We know how singers love to do drunk scenes and Mr. Schneider did not fail us.

No one will ever replace Hvorostovsky but we have no worries about the next great Verdi baritone. Mr. Timpau was superb as Rodrigo, expressing friendship to Mr. Schneider's Don Carlo, who engaged our ear once more with his gorgeous pianissimo.  ("Work it Gerard!", we thought.) "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" had a great rhythmic thrust with Mr. Saunders producing the thrumming chords in the piano. The vocal harmonies were delicious.

Turandot's aria "Tu che di gel sei cinta" is often screamed out. Not so in Ms. Reyes' portrayal which was as dramatically valid as it was musically effective. The high tessitura and high drama held no terrors for her.

Mr. Timpau wowed us with his well modulated performance of Yeletsky's aria "Ya vas lyublyu" from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame. Here's the strange part--we only know about a dozen words in Russian but his performance left us feeling that we understood every word, as well as experiencing every feeling!

We do love serenades and Faust's serenade of Marguerite from Gounod's masterpiece was given a sincere and tender performance by Mr. Schneider who once again delighted us with his pianissimo. His French was given lovely pronunciation and phrasing and Mr. Saunders joined in with some lyrical and tender piano.

"La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni was sung by Mr. Timpau, who got into the role of the seducer, and Ms. Reyes who seemed not to have much point of view about Zerlina as to whether she was frightened of the lord of the estate or a willing participant, or ambivalent.  Vocally fine, she just needs to think about what kind of Zerlina she wants to be.

Mr. Schneider had no such deficit in his delivery of "Kuda, kuda", Lenski's aria from Eugene Onegin. The young man is filled with conflicting emotions as he faces death at the hands of his friend. The various colors Mr. Schneider employed, as well as his facial expression and gestures, took us right to the heart of Lenski's maelstrom of feelings.

We do not know Carlisle Floyd's Susannah very well but we've heard lots of sopranos sing "Ain't it a Pretty Night". It will never be among our favorite arias; at times the words feel shoehorned into the music. That didn't stop up from enjoying Ms. Reyes' performance which was filled with youthful longing. Her English diction was flawless and we understood every word, something we don't take for granted. The high note was stunning.

We have never seen Wagner's Tannhaüser but have loved the aria "O du, mein holder Abendstern" since we heard it in a film by the Taviani Brothers. (We thought it was in Padre Padrone but seeking an answer online, we read that it was used in La Notte di San Lorenzo. If any readers know the correct answer, please add it to the comment section.)

In any case, Mr. Timpau sang it in gorgeously rendered German, not to overlook the melismatic passages. We were transported!

The program ended with  "O soave fanciulla" from Puccini's La Bohème, one of the world's great romantic duets, sung by Ms. Reyes and Mr. Schneider, who walked offstage arm in arm.

But wait! There would be three encores which was like a meal with three desserts! Ernesto de Curtis' 1912 "Non ti scordar di me" was given a beautiful performance by Mr. Timpau. Mr. Schneider sang the open-hearted "Dein ist mein ganzes herz" from Franz Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns and he sang it with his finely spun pianissimo which we enjoyed all night.

Finally Ms. Reyes enchanted the entire audience with "Carceleres" from Ruperto Chapí's zarzuela Las Hijas del Zebedeo, sung with high style and lots of sabor. Readers who know how we feel about zarzuela will know why we floated out of Jackie Robinson Park with feet not touching the ground. Good singing will do that to us!

(c) meche kroop

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