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.

Friday, November 9, 2018


Classic Lyric Arts students in recital at the Kosciuszko Foundation

We have often written about the contributions made by Classic Lyric Arts to the field of opera. With summer programs in both Italy and in France, CLA offers total immersion programs for emerging artists--young singers who will eventually fill the stages of opera houses around the world. Vocal repertoire is taught through the prism of language, history, and culture--including food! We often recognize former students onstage around town; their linguistic and diction skills are always impressive.

Last night was CLA's 10th gala, heavily attended by supporters who enjoyed a lavish cocktail hour, followed by a thrilling recital, and ending with a dessert buffet at which an abbondanza of macarons were almost inhaled. It was notable that the glamorous servers were the young artists themselves!

President and Artistic Director Glenn Morton welcomed the crowd to the stunning upstairs salon of the Kosciuszko Foundation, speaking to us of the special impact of the human voice and describing the value of taking young singers to the source of the music they will sing, providing a means to become part of the culture and its history for a period of several weeks.

Two alumni of the program in Italy shared their experiences with CLA and how it has affected their lives and professional development. The work at CLA is very intimate and students often maintain relationships with their coaches after the program ends. Tenor Ganson Salmon attended the program in 2017 and baritone Xiaomeng Zhang (who sang so beautifully the prior night as an Opera Index winner) attended in 2014.  Being a fan of both these young artists, we can attest to the benefits they derived from their time in Italy. 

Of course, dear reader, you want to know about the singers and the program last night. The main point we'd like to make is how well every singer utilized the text in their delivery. Everyone sounded natural and authentic. There was no linguistic clumsiness to distract from the music making. It was evident from the several ensemble works on the program how well the singers were able to connect with one another.

The program began with the "Gloria tutti" scene which closes Mozart's delightful Nozze di Figaro and ended with the closing scene "Make our garden grow" from Bernstein's Candide. It seemed to us that the hard work in foreign languages had benefited the students in their English diction as well, since we understood every word. That is not to be taken for granted! Jonathan Heaney conducted the Bernstein from the piano.

A couple performances stood out for us and merit our focus. Baritone Fernando Cisneros, already quite well known on the international opera stage, made the most frightening Baron Scarpia we have ever heard. He created a character that was coming from a position of power more than lust. His vocal colors were chilling and his face actually snarled!  All this occurred in perfect Italian with a long legato line and no loss of vocal tone. Puccini would have loved it.

We might add that his interpretation of Count Almaviva down on his knees in apology to the Countess was humble and sincere with appropriate vocal coloration.  He is indeed versatile!

Mr. Zhang revealed his bel canto artistry as Belcore in "Venti scudi" a scene from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore in which he manipulates the gullible and desperate Nemorino (the aforementioned Mr. Ganson) into signing up for the army. The two men worked well in bringing the scene to life. We think of this role as Mr. Zhang's "signature role" since we've seen him perform the entire opera with ARE Opera (now called City Lyric Opera) and recall thinking he was the best Belcore we'd ever heard.

We heard some very fine singing from tenor Zachary Goldman and baritone Sunyeop Hwang in everyone's favorite French duet for two men--"Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les pĂȘcheurs de perles. The Gallic phrasing and pronunciation were just right and the harmonies delightful.

Another delight was the duet from Mascagni's L'amico Fritz in which Fritz first meets Suzel. Stephanie Guasch's soprano soared and Taicheng Li's tender tenor matched well with her both vocally and dramatically.

We also enjoyed "Soave sia il vento" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in which the two sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella (Sarah Bacani and Rosario Hernandez) watch their lovers sail away, joined by Don Alfonso (Ari Bell). Mozart's lovely line was filled out with equally lovely harmonies.

Also on the program were two ensembles. One was the septet from the Giulietta act of Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffman. The other was the "Gran pezzo concertato" from Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, conducted by Lochlan Brown who is also responsible for CLA's new website--www.classiclyricarts.org.  We urge you to take a look and see how you too can become part of the CLA family.

Pianists for the evening were all excellent--Mina Kim, Lochlan Brown, Marianna Vartikyan, Jonathan Heaney, and Cherie Roe.

Other singers and members of the chorus included Chantal Brundage, Aleea Powell, Melanie Dubil, Leah Israel, Travis Benoit, Yongjae Lee, Blair Cagney, Daniela Magura, Rachel Querreveld, Victoria Policht, Emily Hanseul Park, Shan Hai, Yue Huang, Bela Albett, and Nathan Seldin.

(c) meche kroop

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