|Pianist Mark Cogley, John Viscardi, Holly Flack, Ta'u Pupu'a, and Kirsten Chambers
Beginning their third season, New Amsterdam Opera has exciting plans for the year and began with a festive salon in the home of a generous supporter. This young company, helmed by Maestro Keith Chambers, deserves the support of the opera community. We are speaking to you, dear reader! If you love opera and want the art form to survive, you will have to step up to the plate. Many of our most gifted young singers take off for Europe where opera gets a lot of support. Let's keep them here by supporting the small companies that give them roles and stage experience!
That being said, we love NAO for supporting young singers and casting them alongside more experienced singers; we love them for bringing to the public underperformed works by the great composers; we love them for making opera accessible to underserved populations.
Last night's salon was a rare opportunity to hear some of today's finest artists up close and personal in a relaxed and comfortable environment. The four artists performed three sets of three selections each. In between sets there were food and drinks and socializing. What more could one ask for!
We heard the oft reviewed soprano Kirsten Chambers sing in Italian for the first time and loved the sound. We heard soprano Holly Flack for the first time. We enjoyed being blown away by tenor Ta'u Pupu'a's huge sound. We witnessed the completion of John Viscardi's transition from terrific tenor to mellow baritone. All were excellent.
The two gentlemen opened the program with the final act duet from Puccini's La Bohème--"O Mimi, tu più non torni" in which Rodolfo and Marcello sing of their lost loves. Mr. Viscardi was highly persuasive as Silvio imploring Nedda to run away with him in a scene from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci; Ms. Chambers found a great fit for her voice here and we loved their performance, imbued with passion and chemistry.
Mr. Viscardi got another opportunity to be persuasive as Don Giovanni trying to seduce Zerlina, winningly portrayed by Ms. Flack. They also enacted the Papageno-Papagena Duet from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, which we would have preferred in German.
Ms. Flack had two exceptional solos--in "Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's Candide, we loved her use of vibrato and the accuracy of her coloratura. In Ophélie's Mad Scene from Thomas' Hamlet she did justice to the many moods by means of vocal coloration. There were some gorgeous vocalises and smoothly rendered portamenti. The high B at the end might have shattered some crystal!
Puccini's Turandot requires some large voices and Ms. Chambers and Mr. Pupu'a filled the bill in the tension laden riddle scene with pianist Mark Cogley filling in for the crowd of peasants. Mr. Pupu'a makes a splendid Calaf, stageworthy with "Nessun Dorma".
Mr. Viscardi's solo was Danilo's Aria from Franz Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe in which he describes his flirtations with the famous Lolo, Doudou,and JouJou. Yes, he can do rakish; we'd like to hear it in German!
Ms. Chambers' solo was "Zweite Brautnacht" from Richard Strauss' Die ägyptische Helena, in which Helen celebrates her reunion with Menelaus. This work was made famous by Leontyne Price and we were happy to hear Ms. Chambers filling her shoes.
We left fully satisfied by the artistry, the warm fellowship of the NAO's supporters, and the generous buffet.
Consult New Amsterdam Opera's website for more information. But here's a wee hint--if you ever wanted to see Massenet's Herodiade, save May 10th!
(c) meche kroop