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, January 20, 2020


Gloria Kim, Joshua Sanders, Leah Brzyski, Teresa Castillo, Brian Michael Moore,
Xiaomeng Zhang, Aaron Crouch, Meigui Zhang, Yunuet Laguna, and Jane Shaulis

Last night at the glamorous Metropolitan Club, Opera Index held their annual Distinguished Achievement Award Dinner, honoring Joyce DiDonato and Elinor Ross. President Jane Shaulis gave a warm welcome to attendees. As we looked around the room it seemed like every citizen of Planet Opera was there to celebrate the honorees and to hear some extraordinary entertainment by a group of 2019 Award Winners.

Unfortunately, legendary soprano Elinor Ross was unable to attend but a selection from her debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Turandot was played. The recording was made a half century ago! We will be overjoyed to hear all of the young artists we heard last night making debuts at The Met!

Tenor Joshua Sanders led the entertainment with a stunning performance of "Ah! mes amis" from Donizetti's La fille du régiment. Nailing all the high C's was not enough for Mr. Sanders who engaged the audience by circulating between the tables. Ain't nobody don't love that aria!

Actually, all of the choices for the evening's entertainment were arias that are familiar and popular. We Strauss lovers were thrilled to hear "The Presentation of the Rose" from Der Rosenkavalier and our table agreed that Leah Brzyski made a perfect innocent Sophie.

"O zittre nicht" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte is another crowd pleaser due to its vocal acrobatics and soprano Teresa Castillo did not disappoint, giving us plenty of vocal fireworks with all the accompanying thrills and chills.

We never miss a chance to hear baritone Xiaomeng Zhang perform "Vy mne pisali" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, which absolutely must be his signature piece, sung with terrific tonal quality and just the right touch of hauteur. We simply cannot wait to hear Mr. Zhang perform the title role in the entire opera, a role which seems made for him.

Tenor Brian Michael Moore tackled "Ah! la paterna mano" from Verdi's Macbeth, nailing the notes as well as MacDuff's deep grief over the loss of his family. A highly moving performance indeed.

Lest one think that there is not much of interest beyond the famous male duet in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles, we wish you had heard soprano Meigui Zhang sing "Comme autrefois" in which Leila reminisces about her past in the loveliest French sung on the loveliest melody. We particularly admired the note spun out like a silken thread.

Men giving away their hearts is a topic dear to our heart and tenor Aaron Crouch performed "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Franz Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns. Yes, it is a silly operetta but this hit tune has provided ample material for an expansive tenor with good German.

The entertainment ended with the beloved "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Rusalka movingly performed by sensational soprano Yunuet Laguna, who made this difficult language sound as musical as Italian. We actually saw the moon in our mind's eye, so convincing was the performance.

Piano accompaniment was provided by Gloria Kim who can play just about anything!

Richard Stilwell gave a lovely tribute to honoree Joyce DiDonato who always has something sincere to say about young artists. We have often attended her master classes and find her tutelage to be original and very much custom tailored to each student. She certainly deserves to be honored, not just at a gala but constantly. This is such a prominent and admirable feature among the opera community--always helping the younger generation along.

© meche kroop

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