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, November 21, 2018


Contestants and Judges of 2nd Annual International Voice Competition of
Talents of the World, Inc.

This was only the second annual competition run by Talents of the World, Inc. but the competition already has a reputation for fairness. Indeed, there were no voice teachers as judges, favoring their students.  Judges included President of Talents of the World David Gvinianidze, Adam Cavagnaro of IMG Artists, Metropolitan Opera star tenor Francisco Casanova,  Alexandra Naumenko of The Bolshoi Theatre, Artists Manager Matthew Laifer, and the lovely singer Olga Lisovskya of Talents of the World.

We enjoyed the informality of the competition, held at the National Opera Center. Member of the audience could hear the judges discussing which selections they wanted to hear and why they chose them. Apparently, competitors were asked to prepare a couple of arias and also a piece from the music theater or art song genre. Although we did not always agree with the judges' requests, we were mostly in agreement with their decisions about the awards.

If you want to know who won how much money, you won't find it here; perhaps Talents of the World will post it on their website or FB page. We choose to use our limited space to give our impressions of the singers who made us sit up and take notice. The overall quality was extremely high. Semi-finals had been held in both New York and Boston so we got to hear singers we had heard before and enjoyed, as well as hearing some new singers that we'd like to hear again.

We felt very involved with tenor WooYoung Yoon in the role of Tonio from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment. We totally believed his character, equally exuberant over winning the love of Marie and over his acceptance into the regiment. There were no problems with the succession of high C's in his "Ah, mes amis!" although we hope with time they will become "easier"; we noted an improvement in his pronunciation of the French nasals. His second selection was Richard Strauss' "Heimliche Auforderung", which he imbued with clarion tone and passionate delivery.

Soprano Shaina Martinez made a superb Fiordiligi in her delivery of "Come scoglio" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, as firm vocally as the intention of the character she was portraying. There was dramatic clarity and a lovely centeredness throughout the register. Her tonal quality has the same kind of excitement as Mr. Young's. Furthermore, she showed considerable versatility by singing "Tu che di gel sei cinta" from Puccini's Turandot. She was persuasive and affecting enough to melt anyone's heart.  As if that were not enough, we heard a beautiful rendering of Rachmaninoff's "Zdes Khorosho" which we recognized as being "How fair this place".

Megan Moore has a lovely mezzo-soprano which she employed judiciously as Cenerentola from the Rossini opera; she delighted us with "Nacqui all'affanno...non più mesta"; she took plenty of time for the embellishments in the slow section but then in the fast section, she dazzled us with her rapidfire coloratura.  She made a splendid Komponist from Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. She also sang Rachmaninoff's "Ya zhdu tebya" with deep feeling and dynamic variety. Although we do not speak Russian, we got the feeling of nostalgia for something lost.

Sarah Saturnino also showed impressive versatility going from the wild seductiveness of Carmen's "Seguidilla" to the wily charms of Rosina in "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. Her mezzo-soprano instrument delighted us with its texture.   Her appearance changed dramatically as she assumed each character, and so did her vocal coloration. We would have preferred to hear her Tchaikovsky song but the judges requested "So in Love" from Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, which she delivered with gorgeous vibrato.

Soprano Carolina López Moreno sang Juliette's "Dieu! Quel frisson...Amour ranime mon courage" in lovely French and followed it with Violetta's Act I aria "E strano...Sempre libera". She was persuasive both in her awe over the possibility of love and her determination to continue her life of wild abandon and pleasure.

Soprano Sarah Joyce Cooper performed the same scene with conviction and with equal attention to the two different moods. We enjoyed that as well as "Depuis le Jour" from Charpentier's Louise. 

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Kinder brough brightness and energy to "Nobles seigneurs, salut!" from Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, an opera of which we cannot claim familiarity. But we very much enjoyed her stylish and waltzy performance. Equally fine was "Wie du warst", Octavian's gorgeous post-coital aria from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.

Soprano Laura McHugh introduced us to Adelaide's Aria "It's my Wedding" from Jonathan Dove's The Enchanted Pig, derived from Roumanian and Norwegian fairytales. We don't know how this "bridezilla" song fits into the opera but we loved Ms. McHugh's hilarious interpretation and want very much to hear it again!

Soprano Meredith Hansen exhibited a large instrument and made a good choice in "Tu puniscimi o Signore" from Verdi'sLuisa Miller.

Tenor Tianchi Zhang showed a nice ringing top and lovely pianissimo, especially in "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Franz Lehár's Das Land des Lächelns.

Basso Zachary James has a powerful instrument that shows promise for Wagner. He did a great job with Claggart's nasty aria from Britten's Billy Budd. What was remarkable was his superlative English diction. Every word was clear.

Baritone Michael McAvoy did best with "Lucky to Be Me" from Bernstein's On the Town. He seemed less comfortable in French and Italian, actually a bit stiff.

We have heard tenor David Rivera Bozón before and wished that he had chosen to sing something in Spanish. His selections in English did not do justice to his talents. Singing Tony's aria "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story was a particularly unfortunate choice in that Tony's not being Spanish was the main problem in his love affair with the Latina Maria; hearing the song sung with a Spanish accent was just peculiar.

Baritone Chonghwa Kim's interpretation of Rodrigo's "O Carlo ascolta...Io morro" from Verdi's Don Carlo seemed a better fit for his voice than "Avant de quitter ses lieux" from Gounod's Faust.

Tenor Omar Najmi gave us one of our favorite songs, the not very seasonal "Spring Waters" by Rachmaninoff.

The judges took over an hour to deliberate and we can surely understand why.  We would absolutely hate that job!

Winners received cash prizes and opportunities to perform as well as being exposed to agents and managers.

(c) meche kroop


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