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.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


Glenn Morton and participants in Classic Lyric Arts summer programs

The Classic Lyric Arts Fall Benefit Gala is a highly anticipated annual event; it is a golden opportunity to be introduced to participants in CLA's immersive summer programs in France and Italy. These stars of tomorrow have spent some very intensive time in the country of their choice--studying, coaching, learning the subtleties of the language, the culture, the food, and the music.

After a decade, the program is well established; young artists of promise are able to attend even if they cannot afford the tuition because, this year alone, 18 grants were made to help them along. Next year's goal is 28 grants and lovers of this very special art form could find no better means to make a valuable contribution.

The teachers and coaches have been selected for their dedication and desire to pass along their knowledge and expertise. Artistic Director Glenn Morton gave a wonderfully welcoming address to the select audience, pointing out that not every participant will achieve a major opera career; some will wind up in different capacities within the field and others will choose a different profession. But it seems that each and every participant soaked up what was offered to him/her and was greatly enriched.

Before and after the performance, we enjoyed a generous spread of goodies and an opportunity to mingle with the artists and to learn about their education and career goals, and also to hear them extol the benefits of their summer study. 

Alumna Caroline Lopez Moreno possesses a glorious soprano instrument that she uses well and which has captivated us on prior occasions. She has presence to spare as well, and spoke eloquently of her experience with CLA and her respect for Mr. Morton's astute and encouraging coaching.

She performed a divine duet with mezzo-soprano Sarah Fleiss, who is new to us. Rossini's Tancredi offers opportunities to show off and these two young women ran with it, giving an arresting account of this fraught scene in Act II. Rossini gave these conflicting lovers the most harmonious music; Ms. Moreno made a marvelous Amenaide and Ms. Fleiss sounded just grand as Tancredi. The overtones of each voice bounced off the overtones of the other. The fireworks in the cabaletta were dazzling.

We love listening to mezzo-sopranos who have a true mezzo texture to their voices and Ms. Fleiss surely does have the right sound. She was not the only one. Swedish mezzo Loella Grahn gave a winning performance as Rosina in the "note scene" ("Dunque io son") from Rossini's comic masterpiece Il barbiere di Siviglia. Ms. Grahn had all the right qualities--charm, presence, musicality, and good chemistry with her Figaro, wonderfully acted and sung by baritone Carlos Arcos.

Rossini's music is very kind to coloratura sopranos but Puccini demands a more substantial voice and we heard that in Johanna Will; she has a voice with plenty of substance that can effortlessly soar into the upper register. We greatly enjoyed her Cio-Cio San, singing in the Act I love duet from Madama Butterfly "Vogliatemi bene". Tenor Alexei Kuznietsov, whom we have written about several times, did an admirable job as Pinkerton. He just keeps getting better and better, a trajectory we love to witness in a young singer.

His versatility as an artist showed in the lighthearted "C'est l'amour" from Ganne's comic opera Les Saltimbanques, singing with Rachel Liss. We were excited to be introduced to a work and a composer that were new to us.

Similarly we got a kick out of  "Non, non jamais les hommes" from the Yvains operetta Ta bouche--another work and another composer new to us. The delightful Shannon Delijani was joined by Hannah Klein in this very cute number about how men can't understand women. In another number from this operetta, we heard Ms. Klein sing a duet with Wesley Diener entitled "Ta bouche a des baisers".

Soprano Lena Goldstein had a winning presence as Susanna in the scene from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro in which Susanna misunderstands the marital intentions of Figaro, here performed by Mr. Arcos who had to take a slap to the face which was quite convincing.

Marcellina was sung by mezzo Nanako Kato who also made a fine Isabella  in a scene from Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri with Chang Liu singing the rejected wife of Mustafa (Mr. Arcos). 

There was a charming fluffy trio from Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédicte with the voices of Temple Hammen, Bela Albett, and Melanie Dubil achieving perfect harmony.

We also enjoyed a sweet duet from Puccini's La Rondine--"Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso"-- with Ms. Lopez Moreno's Magda partnered by tenor Travis Benoit as Ruggero and a rousing "I Could Have Danced All Night" from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady with Courtney Sanders singing Eliza Doolittle, joined by the chorus.

There seemed to be varying levels of experience in the singing. Some were "performance ready" and other showed promise. But all exhibited the kind of enthusiasm that warms our heart. And everyone sang with Italianate or Gallic style as the piece demanded. All had excellent diction which speaks well for their training with CLA.

Let us not forget the artistry of the collaborative pianists: Jake Landau, Migeun Chung, Vladimir Soloviev, Xu Cheng, and Ariela Bohrod. They too seem to have picked up a lot of French and Italian style during their residency abroad.

© meche kroop

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