|Students of Mignon Dunn at Manhattan School of Music|
The perfume of promise permeated the air at the Miller Theater as a dozen students of Mignon Dunn performed a concert called Opera Moments. And what moments they were! We had no problem guessing what the marvelous Ms. Dunn has been teaching them; what was uniformly notable was their impressive stage presence. No one gripped the piano for security; each one utilized the entire breadth of the stage and created a character by means of body movement and gesture.
Superlative support was provided by the sadly uncredited pianist Dura Jun who never missed a beat. We took many photos and we refer you dear reader to our Facebook Page where we will post as many as we can. In writing about these young artists, please bear in mind that we have a bias toward operas that we love, especially bel canto. It is more difficult for us to appreciate opera in English but we will try to give credit where it is due. Furthermore, our strong preference for duets causes us to laud them first.
The adorable duet between clever Norina and the wily Dr. Malatesta was performed by soprano Hyeree Shin and baritone Jeremy Leung. Dr. Malatesta is instructing the widow Norina how to convince Don Pasquale that she is his shy convent-educated sister. Donizetti gives us plenty of giggles along with some gorgeous melodies in "Pronto io son". Just before this, Mr. Leung used plenty of strength at the bottom of the register in "Bella siccome un angelo", the aria in which he sells Don Pasquale on the attributes of his "sister".
Ms. Shin also impressed us in "Nel grave tormento" from Mozart's Mitridate, re di ponto in which she colored each section differently. We liked the pinpoint fioritura and her fine vibrato.
Another duet yielded similar delights with an emphasis on harmony and balance -- that of soprano So-Chung Shinn and countertenor Luke Paulino who performed "Scherzano sul tuo volto" from Händel's Rinaldo. We particularly enjoyed the slow section.
The same two artists performed arias from Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr. Paulino evincing clear English enunciation and effective gesture whilst Ms. Shinn demonstrated neat work in the fioritura with some nice ascending scale passages.
Soprano Sulgi Cho tickled the ear with some gorgeous resonance and a killer trill in "Ah! Douce enfant" from Massenet's Cendrillon. The fine vibrato and effective phrasing made her the perfect Fairy Godmother. The tone was pleasing throughout the entire register.
Soprano Jury Lee did well with "Stridono Lassú" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci after setting it up with a fine recitativo. The realismo came through loud and clear.
Soprano Yue Huang gave us the provocative "Quando m'en vo" from Puccini's La bohème with a delicate decrescendo just before the end.
Soprano Cambrey Willhelm made a lovely transition from the recitativo to the aria "Dove sono" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.
Mezzo-sopranos were in fine fettle as well. Emma Guo showed strength in the lower register in "Va l'error mio palesa" from Mozart's Mitridate. Fan Yu created the character of Cherubino in "Non so piu" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, even without wearing pants.
William Walton's 1967 opera The Bear was based on the Chekhov short story of the same name. We are astonished that we actually enjoyed a 20th c. opera in English but we did! Let us credit the effective performance of Xiaoya Liu who introduced us to the wry humor of "I was a constant faithful wife".
Shu Li had an inviting presence as Carmen performing a nicely paced "Seguidilla" from the Bizet opera we all know and love. We liked the embellishments in the repeat.
Mengran Jia sang "Se Romeo l'uccise un figlio" from Bellini's I Capuleti ed i Montecchi; we liked the contrast between the sections. Her top was bright and shiny and there was plenty of strength at the low end of the register.
There was a tenor as well and Lincoln Lin made an outstanding connection with the audience in "Se per te giungo a godere" from Händel's Rodelinda. He clearly understood what he was singing about!
We also heard two additional baritones. Philip Godfrey made the English clear in "Look! Through the port" from Britten's Billy Budd. In a very different mood, Yongjae Lee sang "Vien Leonora" from Donizetti's La Favorita with a pleasing vibrato.
It was a wonderful opportunity to witness what a terrific teacher can impart to students. Without stage presence a great voice can go unheard!
(c) meche kroop