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.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Samina Aslam, Joseph Krupa, Janara Kellerman, and Amber Smoke

"To My Friend, With Love" was the title of Janara Kellerman's recital yesterday at Rutgers Presbyterian Church. The recital was dedicated to WWII veteran and veteran baritone/coach Charles Dunn; however it also reflects the feelings that members of the audience must have felt in the warm embrace of this welcoming artist with stage presence to spare.

What makes a singer memorable comprises a warm stage presence, a thrilling instrument, well-developed technique, keen dramatic instincts, and linguistic capability. Mezzo-soprano Janara Kellerman is so gifted in each aspect that we wonder why she is not onstage at The Metropolitan Opera.

She was brought to our attention three years ago by Maestro Keith Chambers, Founder and Music Director of New Amsterdam Opera who has a knack for finding grand voices and putting them to good use. We last heard Ms. Kellerman grabbing the lead role of Massenet's Hérodiade in her teeth and running with it.

We have also enjoyed her Preziosilla in Verdi's La Forza del Destino and her Ortrud in Wagner's Lohengrin, as well as her Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana--all with New Amsterdam Opera. Toning down her glamor, she made a fine Mama Lucia in the latter opera, with the Martha Cardona Opera.

Yesterday we enjoyed her generous mezzo-soprano instrument in a varied program that left nothing to be desired (and no post-modern atrocities to be endured), giving ample evidence of her artistic versatility.

Although Ms. Kellerman scarcely resembles Cinderella in her physical appearance, her facility with Rossini's florid writing made "Nacqui all'affanno...Non più mesta" a joy to the ear. Her voice filled the sanctuary of Rutgers Presbyterian Church, soaring to the rafters. The aria was delivered with expressive legato and clean fioritura; the cabaletta was filled with fireworks.

Switching to lieder by Brahms did not faze her a bit and her German was notably accurate. "Immer leise wird mein Schlummer" is a lied we could never  get through without tearing up and Ms. Kelllerman's dramatic delivery painted a picture for us of this dying woman desperate for a visit from a distant beloved. In "Die Mainacht", she wove a melancholy spell and in "Von ewiger liebe", she sang with steadfast tone, echoing the words of the faithful woman.

Dalila is the perfect role for a mezzo with dramatic instincts. This serpent of a woman must appear maximally seductive toward Samson, her prey; but the audience must get a whiff of her manipulative behavior and destructive intent. We have seen some famous artists in the role but don't think we have heard Camille Saint-Saëns' sinuous vocal line better sung.

We heard another side of her artistry in a trio of French mélodies--all little gems. Henri Duparc's "Chanson Triste" was delivered with gorgeous Gallic flavor and we enjoyed the pianissimo passages. "Extase" was performed with lovely languor. Alfred Bachelet's "Chère nuit" was a tender tribute to a lover.

Carmen is a role tailor-made for Ms. Kellerman, a role in which she can let out all the stops. We were fortunate to hear her build the excitement in "Les tringles des sistres tintaient" and later, as an encore to the program, the "Habanera" performed with plenty of gestural emphasis. This Carmen is one wild woman!

Ms. Kellerman is also adept in Castilian Spanish and we loved the varying moods of Manuel de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Españolas. There is ironic inference, heartbreak, grief, tenderness, and even a gentle lullaby. But it is the insistent rhythm of "Polo" that leaves us shaking.

The program closed with a special treat--the trio in the Finale of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Ms.Kellerman took the role of Octavian with guest artists soprano Amber Smoke as the Marschallin and soprano Samina Aslam as Sophie. We would have enjoyed it more without those loathed music stands but hey, we are always happy to hear three gorgeous female voices in harmony.

The excellent accompanist Joseph Krupa kept right up to every demand, every line, every rhythm, every mood. We particularly enjoyed him in the exotic music of Saint-Saëns and in the propulsive "Polo".

What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! It was only 90 minutes of singing; we felt fulfilled but we could have listened for another half hour at least.

(c) meche kroop

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