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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


International Vocal Artists at IVAI Concert

Last night the International Vocal Arts Institute lived up to the "international" part of its name, presenting a most enjoyable concert of songs from all over the world. This concert had a different format than the one we presented last month at St. John's in the Village. We had six singers, each one given fifteen minutes to sing in his/her own language. Last night we heard 26 singers, each one of them singing just one song. 

We heard songs from Russia and the Ukraine; South Korea, Japan and China; France, Germany, and Italy; England and the USA; Spain, Mexico, and Argentina; Sweden and Iceland. That's quite a world tour!

It is a given that everyone sang well and achieved a higher degree of ease in their own languages. So let us focus on the art of the art song. There is no plot. There are no other characters to deal with. No wigs. No makeup. No sets. It's just the singer and the song, the text and the music.

There are those who prefer a singer who employs only the colors of the voice. We are not of that ilk. We prefer a singer who tells a story using not just the voice but facial expression, gesture, and body movement. That is what draws the listener in to the text. Although hearing a language with which one is familiar gives the listener an advantage in understanding, a good storyteller can enrapture us in any case, even when we don't know the language.

The performance that most enraptured us was that of soprano Elizaveta Kozlova who gave us Mikhail Glinka's "Bird-cherry Tree Will Blossom." The song is about a bride preparing for her wedding and her groom's admiration. We admit we were helped along by the summary in the program and by Ms. Kozlova's costume which was colorful and indicative of a celebration. (Photos can be seen on our FB page--Voce di Meche). But the important thing is that she used the entire stage, dancing with joyful steps, and sharing the excitement of the event. We were reminded of a recital at Juilliard in which the Hungarian singer performed a Czardas.

Although all the South Korean singers were excellent, soprano Hanna Lee impressed us by conveying the several moods of "Miryang-Arirang" with a lot of personality. The embellishment of the vocal line with turns and trills and the rhythmic accompaniment gave her plenty of room for self expression.  Yes, dear reader, the choice of song does make a difference.

The gestures of mezzo-soprano Megan Mateosky brought significance to the Argentinian tango by Carlos Gardel--"El Día Que Me Quieras".

Soprano Isabel Springer used her body well in capturing the excitement of Claude Debussy's "Cheveux de bois". It seemed as if she were actually seeing the carousel and we could see through her eyes.

Baritone Luka Jozic appears to be a natural storyteller using face, gesture, and body to tell the story of Schubert's "Der Tod und das Mädchen". We hope he will work on differentiating the voices of the young woman and that of the death figure. That would take his performance to another level.

Mezzo-soprano Xiaohan Chen used all of her resources in a song about Lady Yang and Emperor Xuanzong from the Tang Dynasty --"Hitom with Autumn Wind". Everything came together in a lovely performance.

Soprano Olesia Verzole used her voice and face to tell the story of Ukrainian oppression "Time Passes" by Stefania Turkewich. We think more bodily involvement would make it even better.

Although we didn't care for the song (Britten's "Seascape"), Jessica Bayne did a lovely job of painting a picture. Even if we couldn't understand all the words we could see the seascape through her eyes.

All of the performances were lovely and it gave us great pleasure to hear so many languages. We have only described the ones that stuck in our mind due to the feature we were focusing on last night--storytelling.

The superb accompanists for the evening were Evgenia Truksa and Dura Jun.

There will be more concerts! Thursday and Friday feature scenes from operas and we are excited to see what these fine young artists will do with scene partners.

(c) meche kroop

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