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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Ryan Hurley, Marina Iwao, Santiago Pizarro, Bronwyn Schuman, Maxwell Levy, Kathleen O'Mara, and Brandon Linhard at Juilliard Liederabend

We accidentally spelled Juilliard with three "l"s, possibly because of the presence onstage of love, longing, and laughter. In another delightful liederabend, coached and curated by Cameron Stowe, an adventuresome program was offered without anything to injure our tender ears. As a matter of fact, our tender ears felt absolutely caressed.

So then, what was the adventuresome aspect? It was the creation of a faux song cycle by Schubert. Well, it wasn't exactly faux. Schubert composed the music for these four songs as a group.  However, Goethe wrote the texts separately and they were published separately, but a case could be made that Schubert had some resonance in mind as he composed the music, a resonance picked up by Mr. Stowe.

In any event, we enjoyed the juxtaposition as well as the expressive singing of tenor Ryan Hurley. "Der Musensohn" is well known and one of our favorites; we enjoyed the lively rhythms although we would have preferred a lighter touch in Marina Iwao's piano.

The following three songs are lesser known and we were happy that Ms. Iwao's enthusiasm abated so we could better hear the text. The plaintive text of "An die Entfernte" received the appropriate coloring from both voice and piano who matched better with each other. The sad feelings continued in "Am Flusse" whilst "Wilkommen und Abschied" ended on a more optimistic note.

We found ourselves wishing that we had poets like Goethe today. We also found ourselves wishing that the ignorant members of the audience would withhold applause after every song. Perhaps this advice could be stated right on the program!

There was more Schubert to come from Kathleen O'Mara with her lovely sweet soprano instrument. "Die junge Nonne" is such a wonderful song, filled with opportunity for variation in coloration which we hope Ms. O'Mara will develop. There could be more contrast between the storm and the inner peace felt by the young nun. We did hear that contrast in Cameron Richardson-Eames' piano.

We were so happy to be introduced to "Dass sie hier gewesen" with Friedrich Rückert's poignant sentiment. Come to think of it, we could also use a Rückert today!  The lengthy paean to the joys and pains of love found in "Lied der Delphine" was another newfound treasure.

Tenor Santiago Pizarro was on hand to offer songs by Franz Liszt. We never knew that "Im Rhein, im schönen Strome" existed and utilized the same Heinrich Heine text that Schumann set in his cycle Dichterliebe, with just a single word change. Liszt's iteration has a totally different feeling and we enjoyed Mr. Pizarro's delivery.

Collaborative pianist Bronwyn Schuman produced some fine rippling figures as backdrop to the voice. Other moods were created as well--the gloom of "Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam", the bitterness of "Vergiftet sind meine Lieder" and the confused feelings of "Freudvoll und Leidvoll". We think Mr. Pizarro will likewise develop more variety in his coloration.

The liederabend concluded with some cabaret songs by William Bolcom, sung with high drama and good humor by baritone Maxwell Levy, accompanied by Brandon Linhard. The only one of this group with which we were familiar was "Murray the Furrier". "Thius, King of Orf" was over after just one phrase. Perhaps our favorite was "Satisfaction". Mr. Levy has a real flair for cabaret and our conjecture is that he has spent some time with Steven Blier--or will do so.

Our major quibble with young singers is inconsistency in the pronunciation of the final "ch". Sometimes it is omitted; sometimes it is over-enunciated. Perhaps coaches don't work on it because they think very few people speak German. But we have to pick on something, don't we?

Nonetheless, we had a fine time at Juilliard and count on several more liederabende in 2019!

(c) meche kroop

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