Monday, October 21, 2019
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Saturday, October 19, 2019
|Kelly Singer, Juan Hernandez Tair Tazhi, Corinn Springer, Polina Egudina, and Samantha McElhaney|
|Juliet Morris, Margarita Gushcha, Diana Skavronskaya, Samuel Chiba and Unknown Person who did not sing|
We love hearing singers for the first time and being surprised. Sometimes we are happily surprised and sometimes we are disappointed. Last night's IMAO program at Weill Recital Hall had more pleasant surprises than unfortunate ones. All were beautifully accompanied on the piano by Christian Ugenti and Giovanni Longo--both excellent.
Let us begin with a bass from Kazakhstan--Tair Tazhigulov. He gave the lie to the saying that the bass voice is a late maturing fach. Of course, we do not know Mr. Tazhigulov's age but he appears young whilst having a mature sound with depth and breadth. In "Come, dal ciel precipita" from Verdi's Macbeth, he conveyed Banquo's tenderness toward his son Fleanzio with lovely phrasing, and used a different color to limn the anxiety, urging the youth to flee the assassins.
In "Kak vo gorode bïlo vo kazani" from Mussorgsky's masterpiece Boris Godunov, he sang with authority and dramatic validity. We couldn't help but think of all the bass roles that we would like to hear him sing.
We were also introduced to a very young tenor who showed a great deal of promise with a sweet unforced sound and amplitude of feeling. Juan Hernandez is his name and he is someone to watch. With the correct embouchure he produced a lovely Italianate sound in "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's comedy L'Elisir d'Amore. There was a lovely downward glissando, some admirable melismatic singing, and a finely drawn out decrescendo at the end. We thought of a fine silken thread suspended in the air.
He effectively created the character of the Duke in the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto. This quartet was not exactly up to snuff since the balance was off; the poor baritone was drowned out and the women overacted.
The "poor baritone" sounded just fine in his subsequent solo. Samuel Chiba has a pleasing lyric instrument and delighted us with "Pierrot's Tanzlied" from Korngold's Die tote Stadt. We would love to see Mr. Chiba get rid of the stock gestures he employed and produce something meaningful from within to amplify the text.
Getting to the women singers, there was no faulting the gestures of the enchanting and aptly named soprano Kelly Singer, the only one on the program that we have heard many times before. Although we have enjoyed her Zerbinetta and her Clorinda, it is her performance of "Non monsieur mon mari", from the very funny Poulenc opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias, that we recall the best.
That seems to be Ms. Singer's signature aria, the one which earned her awards from both the Ades Competition and from Career Bridges. Ms. Singer knows exactly how to get a song across with the organic gestures that were missing from the baritone's performance. To say that we love her voice and admire her stage presence would be an understatement.
Soprano Diana Skavronskya is new to us and made an excellent impression with her sparkling delivery of "Ah! Je ris de me voir" from Gounod's Faust. This young woman has charm and presence to spare and had no problem creating the character of Marguerite, drawing us into the performance so effectively that we could see the mirror in our mind's eye, as well as the jewels that dazzled the poor girl. To ice the cake, her French was as fine as could be.
Innocent excitement would seem to be a specialty of Gounod and the aria "Ah! Je veux vivre dans le rève" from Faust was given an excellent performance by soprano Margarita Gushcha who used her scintillating soprano to bring Juliet's excitement and innocence to life.
We decline to name the singers who disappointed us; sometimes a singer is just having a bad day or has recently changed teachers and is in a transitional period. We witnessed some instances of lackluster stage presence such as clutching the piano and some acting directed to a nonexistent fifth balcony which one only sees in silent film, as well as a Dalila that couldn't seduce Samson with a note from her mother. We don't know which is worse, overacting or underacting.
We also heard several technical flaws that need correction as well-- a voice too far back in the throat and one with excessive vibrato that bordered on wobbledom. Nonetheless, the audience had a wonderful time and the hall was filled to the bursting point.
We have one complaint having nothing to do with the singing. We acknowledge that, in the absence of titles, it's a good idea to let the audience know what each aria is about, since there are always people in the audience new to opera. We love it when the artist him/herself addresses the audience. We don't mind if this information is printed in the program. What annoyed us was having narration read out loud.
The "reader" was a well known author who has written a fine volume A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera; we happily recommend it to all noobies. But the written word is not equivalent to speech as it is spoken. How much better it would have been if Ms. Schweitzer had just told us what she clearly knows. We were reminded of professional conferences in which the presenter read his paper. Total snooze, folks!
We might add that the evening was arranged along a time continuum from Monteverdi onward and ended with the entire cast singing "Make Our Garden Grow" from Bernstein's Candide--the perfect way to end an evening.
We praise IMAO for their vigorous talent scouting, intensive training, and their help in launching the careers of young singers.
© meche kroop
Friday, October 18, 2019
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Guest Review by Ellen Godfrey:
Last night at St. John’s Church in the Village, the genius of Richard Wagner’s music abounded in the pairing of the Wesendonck Lieder with two selections from his passionate opera, Tristan und Isolde.
In 1849, Wagner had to escape from Dresden to Switzerland with his wife Minna, to avoid being arrested as a rebel. He was invited to live in a small cottage on the estate of one of his patrons, Otto Wesendonck, and his wife Mathilde. While the Wagner’s were there, Mathilde wrote a cycle of five poems for women which Wagner set to music. The cycle became known as the Wesendonck Lieder. The song cycle was composed between 1857 and 1858. There were unconfirmed rumors that Wagner and Mathilde were having a love affair.
Wagner was two thirds of the way through composing his unmatched 4-opera Ring Cycle, when he took a 12 year break after almost completing Siegfried, the third opera of the cycle. Wagner was very interested in finding new expression in music and drama. He became very interested in the 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote a book called The World as Will and Repression. He started to compose a new opera, Tristan und Isolde, which pointed to a new kind of music which eventually led composition into the 20th century.
The highly gifted soprano Julianna Milin performed both the Wesendonck Lieder, and, after a brief intermission, two selections from Tristan und Isolde, no easy task. In the first part of the program, Miss Millin used her beautiful, big voice in a lighter vein, as is befitting a lieder singer. In the second half of the program, she let her voice rip, with a much bigger sound and beautiful high notes and deep low notes. Her accompanist was the talented Juan Jose Lazaro, who has performed in many major symphonic halls. He has also accompanied many singers in masterclasses. He was a very supportive partner throughout the two part program.
Ms. Milin sang the first poem “Der Engel “(The Angel) very softly and ended it on a very quiet note. This song has several musical references to Das Rheingold, the first opera of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. In the second song "Stehe Still “(Be still), the pianist sailed easily through the difficult very fast moving music, like the rushing wheel of time, which is the first line of the song. Ms Milin was equally adept in her performance.
Wagner was using two of the Wesendonck songs as a draft for a new opera Tristan und Isolde which he had started working on. In the third song “Im Treibhaus" (In the Green House) Wagner used the music as part of the prelude to Act 3 of Tristan und Isolde. It started off with a beautifully played piano introduction by Mr. Lazaro as Ms. Milin started slowly and softly along with him. The ending of the song was quiet, with both the pianist and the singer feeling the music very deeply. In the fourth song “Schmerzen"( Sorrows) Ms. Milin was able to show off her deep low notes, expressing the sorrow of the song.
The fifth and final song is the most beautiful of the cycle--“Traume” (Dreams,) and was used by Wagner in the Act 2 love duet of Tristan und Isolde. Ms. Milin sang a beautiful introduction to the song with much feeling and a good. understanding of the music. It was really her most beautiful singing of the cycle. Mr. Lazaro accompanied her with great understanding and feeling.
What was missing from Ms. Milin’s performance of these 5 wonderful songs, was communication with the audience. She too often looked at the music on her nearby music stand rather than relating to the audience. Hopefully, by the next time she performs this music, she will no longer need the score.
After the intermission Ms. Milin returned to the stage to sing Isolde’s curse from the first act of Tristan und Isolde. Here she was a different singer She used her big bright voice to great effect for this highly dramatic music, and sang with great feeling when called for. In the long narrative, Isolde spews out her rage against Tristan, with whom she is secretly in love, but who is escorting her to marry King Mark. Her singing in this portion was very exciting and she poured out wonderful high notes as she curses Tristan. Juan Jose Lazaro played with anger when needed but never overshadowed her singing.
The evening concluded with the beautiful "Liebestod " (love/death). The music began quietly with both pianist and singer. Ms. Millin sang with great feeling with perfect accompaniment by Mr. Lazaro. She had a beautiful pianissimo at the end and Mr. Lazaro finished on a quiet note. As the program ended, the audience cheered the performances of both artists. It was a lovely evening of music and thoughtfully demonstrated the relationship between Wagner's song cycle and subsequent opera.
© meche kroop