Raul Melo, David Gvinianidze, Tamar Iveri, Arsen Soghomonyan, Ruslana Koval, Natasha Novitskaia, Olga Lisovskaya, Ludmila Fesenko, Alexandra Naumenko (accompanist) Victoria Ulanovskaya (accompanist), Anna Kolkhida, Zachary James, William Meinert, Shaina Martinez, Natasha Novitskaia, Wooyoung Yoon. (photo by Ellen Godfrey)
Guest review by Ellen Godfrey....
Talents of the World concluded their highly successful three day Festival at Carnegie Hall with a Christmas Ball, described as a merry evening of opera, operetta, international songs and Christmas Carols. And a merry evening it was. Right from the beginning, when several couples waltzed onto the stage, it was evident that this would be a joyful evening. The wonderful baritone David Gvinianidze, who is the President and founder of Talents of the World, welcomed the audience to the concert.
The evening featured the four winners of the Talents of the World’s first vocal competition in New York City and they were all amazing. Tenor Wooyoung Yoon, brought down the house early in the evening with his performance of the difficult tenor bel canto aria…”Ah mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. I have heard him sing this aria several times, and each time he adds a little something different. After he sang the first part of the aria, the audience erupted in applause…which was echoed even louder after the fast moving cabaletta with the 9 high C’s. He has wonderful resonance and is delightful on stage. He immediately connects with the audience.
Following Wooyoung Yoon, was the mezzo soprano winner Megan Moore, who performed Cenerentola’s aria “Nacqui All’Affanno…non più mesta.” Megan has a lightly colored mezzo-soprano, even from top to bottom and with excellent coloratura singing. She also portrayed the character of Cenerentola well.
Shaina Martinez, the soprano winner, was totally delightful singing and acting the comic romanza, “Carcelaras" from the Spanish zarzuela Las Hijas de Zebedeo. She had great fun singing it. She related with the audience who showed their delight in her performance and her beautiful soprano voice.
For a change of pace, the bass winner, Zachary James sang Javert’s song “Stars,” from the musical Les Miserables. He has a fine bass voice and good presence on stage.
Another young bass was William Meinert who sang Varlaam’s song from Boris Godunov. He had a somewhat darker bass and he sang this song with the vigor it demanded. Mr. Meinert also performed a charming duet from Pergolesi’s rarely heard comic intermezzo La Serva Padrona, with Olga Lisovskaya, director of the U.S. branch of Talents of the World. They both projected their characters well as well as highlighting the comedy inherent in the piece. Olga’s coloratura and lovely singing voice combined well with Mr. Meinert’s deep bass voice. The pianist Alexandra Naumenko received great applause for her extraordinary accompaniment.
Soprano Ruslana Koval, who enthralled all who heard her big beautiful voice on Friday, gave another great performance of Mozart’s "Queen of the Night" aria. She fearlessly and precisely sang all of the high notes in this difficult aria. There was great clarity to her diction and she brought out all of the drama and anger in the aria.
Arsen Soghomonya performed a wonderful "Granada" with his great dramatic tenor voice.
To wind down the end of the first part of the concert, we were treated to some wonderful operetta excerpts and songs.
Tamar Iveri has a big beautiful voice and she can do anything she wants with it. She sang the popular Neapolitan song “ A Vucchella” by Paolo Tosti with great warmth and love. Her phrasing is always beautiful and, when called for, she can diminish her voice expressively. The wonderful accompanist Victoria Ulanovskaya was there with her all the way.
Tenor Raul Melo gave a wonderful, funny, performance of the Ballad of the grotesque dwarf Kleinzach, from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. He has a big dark tenor voice and caught both the comedy and sadness of the character and was very entertaining.
Three tenors…Raul Melo, Wooyoung Yoon, and Arsen Soghomonyan,whose big dramatic tenor voice blended well with the other tenor voices, sang the Neapolitan song“O Sole Mio" à la Three Tenors, each one taking their turn and revealing the differences in their tenor voices. Later in the evening they sang another Neapolitan song together, "Torno a Sorento".
Adele’s "Audition aria" from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus was sung by the lovely soprano, Olga Lisovskaya. She did a wonderful job of overacting, as was called for. Bass Zachary James and mezzo-soprano Megan Moore also added to the humor of the scene.
The second part of the program consisted of more ensembles and also included many beloved Christmas Carols. It started off with beautiful delicate singing by Tamar Iveri of the song "Autumn Flowers" by Kvernadze. She used many different colors in her voice…The pianist Victoria Ulanovskaya followed her beautifully.
Anna Kolkkhida entered the stage to sing "Silent Night". She began singing very softly with her beautiful soprano voice; then Shaina Martinez, followed by mezzo-soprano Megan Moore sang some verses. The ending was sung in beautiful harmony with an angelic sound.
Adam's "O Holy Night" was sung as a quartet with Megan Moore leading on stage followed by Raul Melo, Wooyoung Yoon and Shaina Martinez all to good effect.
Baritone David Gvinianidze and soprano Ruslana Koval’s voices blended beautifully together as they sang and danced the waltz from The Merry Widow.
There was more solo singing in this half of the program. Mezzo-soprano Natasha Novitskaia, came out with a red dress and red flower…she gave a very sexy performance of Carmen’s aria “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle.” Her mezzo voice easily dipped down to the lower register and up to the higher notes in her range. At the end, she threw a red flower into the audience.
Soprano Ludmila Fesenko sang a wonderful Ukrainian song “Dniprovsky Vals" by I. Shamo. Her lovely lyric voice reached up to the heights above high C. She has lots of personality and acted as well as she sang. She brought down the house. She was immediately followed by the mezzo-soprano Jenni Bank, who gave an equally great performance of “I am easily assimilated” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. She was delightful and funny in the role, singing with a comic made-up foreign accent. She and the pianist, Alexandra Naumenko had a good time together. Tamar Iveri sped through Rossini’s tarantella, "La danza,", and sang with great style. Pianist Alexandra Naumenko followed her perfectly.
All the singers joined in a toast, “Libiamo”, from the first act of La Traviata. Raul Melo, Ruslana Koval and David Gvinianidze sang and performed well in this scene. The other singers surrounded them and sang the chorus. All the singers joined in (with Ruslana Koval’s voice soaring above everyone else's) toasting champagne and wishing us a Merry Christmas. Several couples danced as they had at the beginning of this wonderful evening.
Congratulations not only to the singers, but also to both pianists Alexandra Naumenko and Victoria Ulanovskaya. They provided great support and encouragement to all of the singers. Congratulations also to David Gvinianidze and Olga Lisovskaya for putting together such a delightful evening, and for all the added touches to the production. I certainly look forward to the return of the Talents of the World at Carnegie Hall next year.
(c) meche kroop