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.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Anna Viemeister, Manya Steinkoler, Francisco Miranda, Julianna Milin, Katrin Bulke, Lindell Carter, and Hyung Joo Eom

It isn't every day that we get to hear Verdi arias. Thanks to Vocal Productions NYC and Father Graeme Napier, who warmly welcomed us opera lovers to the gorgeous space of St. John's in the Village, we are replete.  As a matter of fact we have been humming Verdi's memorable tunes all night.

Il Trovatore is a most difficult opera with a near-inscrutable plot and some treacherous pitfalls in the vocal lines. How brave of VPNYC's group of singers to tackle it! If their success was not total we can certainly understand. 

Soprano Julianna Milin did well in lending expressiveness to Leonora's aria of anticipation "Tacea la notte...Di tale amor". We liked the overtones of her voice resounding through the church and the pace of the cabaletta. A little work on the trill should put the finishing touch on her performance.

Mezzo-soprano Anna Viemeister sang "Stride la vampa" and her stylish appearance worked against her.  We were trying to picture her in an ugly wig and makeup but failed. Our biggest complaint was that the notes in the lower register were not in line with the rest of the voice but sounded as if they came from someone else. 

She performed the duet "Non son tuo figlio...Mal reggendo all'aspro" with tenor Lindell Carter. Mr. Carter has improved dramatically since the last time we heard him sing, with much less distracting mugging. But we didn't feel him connecting with the character of Manrico nor was there any mother-son chemistry between the two of them. We would like to see Mr. Carter loosen up onstage since his gestures seem stilted.

Baritone Hyung Joo Eom has a pleasing instrument that is most pleasing at the lower end of the register. He performed "Il balen del suo sorriso" with a nice reduction of volume as the aria itself began. We would like to have heard even more dynamic variety; this was true for every performance in the Il Trovatore part of the program, which mostly suffered from sameness.

Watching a singer trying to emote while turning pages on a music stand gives us no pleasure whatsoever so we decided to withhold judgment of soprano Manya Steinkoler's abilities for later in the evening. Yes, we know "D'amor sull'ali rosee...Miserere...Tu vendrai" is a helluva challenge and, as we understand, this was Ms. Steinkoler's performing debut.

We were glad we waited because we truly enjoyed Lady Macbeth's aria "Una macchia e qui tuttora" which Ms. Steinkoler performed off the book and without glasses, permitting a far better connection with the audience. We liked her Italian, the legato, and the dynamic variety which we so missed in the first half of the program.

We also got another opportunity to hear Ms. Viemeister who put impressive dramatic intensity into Lady Macbeth's "Vieni t'affretta", following Verdi's interesting chord progression played by accompanist Francisco Miranda. We also liked the dramatic commitment in "O don fatale...O mia Regina" from Don Carlo. But we still felt uncomfortable with the disconnection of the low notes from the rest of the vocal register.

Her performance of "Dido's Lament" from the Purcell opera was filled with feeling and performed with crisp English diction, a skill we never take for granted.  We understood every word.

We also enjoyed Mr. Carter's delivery of "Dio, mi potevi" from Verdi's Otello, in which the tenor seemed to connect more with the character in a convincing manner.  He seemed to know what he was singing about, exactly what was lacking in the duet from Il Trovatore. Perhaps he likes being a powerful general more than being a bandit!

He was even better in Mac Duff's aria from Macbeth . "Ah la paterna mano" in which his vibrato served to underscore the character's grief.

He also performed a duet with Mr. Eom "Dio che nell'alma infondere" from Verdi's Don Carlo, which our narrator (substituting for titles) called a "bromance". The presence of the detestable music stand prevented their connecting but the voices did harmonize nicely.

Soprano Katrin Bulke did not tackle any Verdi and we were glad of it. She seems to know what her voice is suited for and gave a lovely performance of "Regnava nel silenzio" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, a performance invested with lovely legato, flexibility in the fioritura, and dynamic variety. We would like to see a bit more fragility in the character, to foreshadow her decompensation later in this tragic tale.

We loved the bit of "fluff" she brought in, both singing and dancing in the delightful "Heia Heia in den Bergen" from Imre Kalman's Die Csárdásfürstin. We are always ready for some Hungarian fun!

Watch Vocal Productions NYC's Facebook page for some upcoming concerts which you are sure to enjoy.

(c) meche kroop

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