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.

Friday, February 1, 2019


Aisslinn Nosky, Alexander Woods, Jakub Józef Orliński, Kyle Miller, Avi Stein, Ezra Seltzer, and Wen Yang

The thrill for us last night at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall lay not so much with the material but rather with the performance. Jakub Józef Orliński is one of those rare singers who could entrance us by singing the phonebook. We still recall his brilliant performance as the lead in Jonathan Dove's Flight which resulted in our opening up to contemporary opera.

Last night's program of sacred music would never have been our choice.  And yet.  And yet we found ourselves in rapt attention for two hours, our attention never wandering from the glorious sound of the countertenor's instrument, a sound we will focus on trying to describe for those of you who were not fortunate enough to secure a ticket for the oversold concert.

The tone is crystal clear and even throughout the register without any disconcerting breaks. It is brilliant and focused at the top, opening like a flower. At the lower register, it is substantial and more resonant than one would expect of this fach.

His technique is flawless. We paid quite a bit of attention to his embouchure which resulted in what amounted to a lesson. The capacious opening for the "ah" sound,  the pursing of the lips for the "oo" sound, the compactness for producing the "ee" sound without spreading, everything was perfect.

The breath control for producing the extravagant embellishments of the vocal line led to a marked precision in the volley of notes--something like a string of matched pearls.

The variety of colors produced a kind of chiaroscuro word painting that, combined with exquisite dynamic variation avoided the kind of tedium that we've often experienced with this type of music. Each work became a mini-drama, each one focused on a different aspect of the crucifixion of Jesus.

All the works on the program were composed around the turn of the 18th c. and the first half of it and suggested the high degree of innovation occurring in the Baroque period.

The opening piece was Antonio Vivaldi's Stabat Mater in F Minor. sung of course in Latin. Latin seems to have the same gorgeous vowels as Italian, the taste of which Mr. Orliński seemed to relish. What was different were a few endings "am","em", "et", "is",  and "um". Not a consonant was cheated. The legato produced a stream of sound that seemed to flow without end. The melismatic passages seemed to take flight. The dark tone of the work yielded to an exuberant "Amen" at the end

Nicola Fago's "Tam non splendet" was a more cheerful piece with lavish coloratura, especially in the ritornello. The third section was filled with tenderness with an exuberant "Alleluja" at the conclusion. The singer's vocal fireworks were echoed by the first violin.

The entire program, except for one short piece which was given its world premiere--(Gaetano Maria Shiassi's "A che si serbano" from Maria Vergine al Calvario) can be heard on Mr. Orliński's newly released CD Anima Sacra, comprising rediscovered 18th c. sacred arias and recorded with the Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro. 

In Schiassi's "L'agnelletta timidetta" from the same work, Mr. Stein accompanied on the organ. Both of Schiassi's pieces were sung in Italian.

Last night's program was accompanied by members of New York Baroque Incorporated-- violinists Aisslinn Nosky and Aleander Woods, violist Kyle Miller, cellist Ezra Seltzer, violonist Wen Yang, and harpsichordist Avi Stein who also played the organ. One could not have asked for a better setting for this jewel of a singer. There were times when Ms. Nosky's line followed the singer's or wove in and out--times of unutterable beauty.

There were three instrumental interludes; the first was the Trio Sonata in D Major by Arcangelo Corelli performed by the two violins, the cello, and the harpsichord. The second and third were portions of Franceso Durante's Concerto for Strings in G Minor. We have no idea why the work was broken up in such fashion and would have preferred to have heard it intact.

Mr. Orliński's artistry is equalled by his charming stage presence. He is at that stage in his professional career in which his overwhelming success on the world's stages has not yet been taken for granted. His enthusiasm for his music is absolutely contagious and we felt the audience take him into their collective heart. The standing ovation was well deserved.

The capstone for this glorious evening was his second encore--"Vedro con mio diletto" from Vivaldi's Il Giustino. We have lost count of the number of times we have listened to his performance online; to hear him perform it in person was astonishing. There is a simplicity and a virility that made it more enjoyable than that of Philippe Jaroussky which we like also but which struck us as a bit excessive in its ornamentation of the ritornello and also lacking in the warmth given to it by Mr. Orliński. It is interesting that the video we saw of Mr. Jaroussky was made about 10 years ago, just when Mr. Orliński began his vocal studies!

Dear reader, please listen to both videos on You Tube and let us know what you think!

(c) meche kroop

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