|Sung Shin and Sara Jayne Blackmore in Washington Square Park|
Opera Under the Arch of Washington Square Park is Sung Shin's baby; it's a year old and thriving. One would expect the Artistic Director to snag the best parts for himself but baritone Shin took a back seat and left us wanting to hear more of his marvelous baritone. He did appear in some duets which we will get to anon.
What a treat to be outdoors in lovely June weather listening to world class singers. It is difficult to say who enjoyed it more, the ever-growing crowd of listeners or the singers themselves. We were in seventh heaven and the "noobie" we brought has become a convert to opera because of the winning performances and the delightfully casual atmosphere of the event. We are not sure if we were the first to write about this event last year, but we won't be the last. The media has been quick to pick up the novelty of the experience, especially the part about singers standing on top of the piano!
Some of the singers are advanced students and others are starring in operas both in the USA and abroad. A special treat was hearing bass Hidenori Inoue tear into "Mentre goniersi l'anima parea" from Verdi's Attila. In this aria, Attila relates a discouraging dream he had about turning back and giving up. Mr. Inoue grabbed this aria by the throat and delivered a powerful performance. It is said that the bass is a late-maturing fach but this youthful artist truly showed a vocal maturity that would serve any bass role.
Also on hand was soprano Yvette Keong who sang Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" with such tonal brilliance that we heard it afresh. We have always associated it with mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne so this was an entirely new experience. This versatile young artist, as beautiful vocally as she is in appearance, was particularly convincing in "Quando m'en vo", Musetta's show stopper in Puccini's La Bohème. A gal has to be really gorgeous to get away with that one and she is! More surprising was her lush delivery of Rachmaninoff's "Spring Waters" in excellent Russian.
A soprano of a totally different kind, Alaysha Fox shows great promise in the dramatic soprano fach. We recall her excellent Lady Macbeth and her stunning performance of Donna Elvira's aria "Or sai chi l'onore" from Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals. What a treat to hear her reprise that success up close and personal. Just as compelling was her performance of "Ernani involami" from Verdi's opera of the same name. We expect a lot of Ms. Fox!
Soprano Alexis Rose Seminario opened the evening with a beautiful delivery of "Depuis le jour" from Charpentier's seldom heard opera Louise and was joined by Mr. Sung for the charming duet from Reynaldo Hahn's operetta Ciboulette -- "Nous avons fait un beau voyage". The chemistry and the harmony worked well and the French was completely understandable; it was romantic and endearing as operetta should be.
Mr. Sung seemed to be ever ready to join his wonderful baritone with other artists. We do love duets and heard two of them from Donizetti's delightful comedy Don Pasquale. He made a fine Dr. Malatesta with Sarah Jayne Blackmore as his Norina in "Pronto io son". We always love this duet as the wily doctor coaches the widow Norina in how to present herself as his convent bred sister.
Continuing as Dr. Malatesta, Mr. Shin conspired with John Brakatselos as a very funny Don Pasquale. The two baritones have very different qualities but both excelled at the rapidfire patter. Mr. Brakatselos has a deep baritone that seemed just right for Macbeth's lugubrious "Pietà, rispetto, amore". Showing his versatility, he performed "Italian Street Song" by our dearly beloved Victor Herbert, reminding us of our many delightful evenings with Victor Herbert Renaissance Project Live!
Soprano Nicoletta Julia Berry gave a touching performance of Gilda's falling-in- love aria "Caro Nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto, evincing a killer trill, a delicate diminuendo, and a perfect portamento--all the things we want in a coloratura aria.
Soprano Shelén Hughes sang a Bernstein song we'd never heard before from Wonderful Town--"A Little Bit in Love". The song starts out with humming and moves on to the almost speechless wonder of falling in love; we think we fell a little bit in love with Ms. Hughes! She also gave a charming performance of "Il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine.
Soprano Ripley Lucas-Tagliani invested "Frère! Voyez!" from Massenet's Werther with Sophie's enthusiastic innocence and lovely tonal quality. We noticed the same qualities in her "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.
Saving our terrific tenor for last, Emmet Cahill almost moved us to tears with "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, sung when Nemorina realizes that Adina must really love him. And we love him too! He also delighted us as the love-besotted Tony in "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story and the heartfelt audience-pleasing "Danny Boy".
What an evening! A banquet of song, catered by master chef Sung Shin who surely has earned his first name. Accompanying all this marvelous singing on the piano was Eric Sedgwick, whose artistry we have long admired and written about, and Curtis Serafin who is new to us.
What an effective way to win a new audience for opera. There were all ages in attendance and the children were as spellbound as their parents. Opera is for everyone, not just the elite! Spread the word folks!
(c) meche kroop