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, March 7, 2020


Juan Lázaro, Manya Steinkoler, Anna Viemeister, Rosario Armas, Sasha Gutiérrez,
and Emma Lavandier

The upcoming International Women's Day was honored last night by Vocal Productions NYC by presenting five women singers in an interesting concert celebrating female opera heroines. Of course, the women were accompanied by a man!  One of our favorite young pianists, Juan Lázaro, managed to keep up with all five!

We love hearing young singers and are aware of how much talent there is in our local conservatories. Gracing the stage of St. John's in the Village were two students from Manhattan School of Music. We remember mezzo-soprano Rosario Armas from her performance last year as Lazuli in Chabrier's L'Etoile, presented by Catherine Malfitano's Junior Opera Theater.

Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas was another feather in her MSM cap.  Last night she dazzled us with a deeply felt "O ma lyre immortelle" from Gounod's Sapho, and showed herself to be an accomplished artist comfortable in the French language.

She also sang a cabaret song by Britten entitled "Johnny", demonstrating clear diction and dynamic variety.

Sasha Gutierrez, another student from MSM, performed "Stridono lassú" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, presenting not just splendid vocalism but a true immersion in the character of Nedda. Through Nedda's eyes we could see the birds flying overhead and feel her envy of their freedom. This dramatic intention adds immeasurably to a performance. Of course, Mr. Lázaro's piano helped to bring the birds to life!

The incredibly difficult "Come scoglio" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte was made to seem like a piece of cake with easeful leaps up and down the register. Was Mozart commenting on Fiordiligi's character or just making things difficult for a soprano he didn't like???

Mezzo-soprano Anna Viemeister has caught our attention in the past by the versatility she has demonstrated, taking on a great variety of roles and doing all of them justice. Last night she gave a stunning performance of "Re dell'abisso", Ulrica's aria from Verdi's Ballo in Maschera. There was an admirable consistency throughout the register and the low notes surely belong in the contralto fach. The "Silencio!" was just as gripping as it should be. 

Ms. Viemeister is an expert at inhabiting a character. She did just as well creating a memorable Princesse de Bouillion in the impassioned "Acerba volutta" from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. Léonor's aria "O mio Fernando" from Donizetti's La Favorita allowed her to show off the upper register and her duet "Mira o Norma" showed her ability to achieve harmony and balance.

The Norma to her Adalgisa was sung by soprano Manya Steinkoler who also gave us Lady Macbeth at her most bloodthirsty in "Vieni t'affretta", introducing the aria with a dramatic recitation and following it with a stunning cabaletta.

The oft-reviewed Emma Lavandier was also on hand portraying Hoffman's muse in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffman; there is nothing like hearing this from a native speaker of French! The same could be said for her "Seguidilla" from Bizet's Carmen, although we would have wished for a bit more seduction.

We enjoyed the evening immensely and left with only one doubt. Why was Adriana Lecouvreur put in the category of "Witches"? We always saw her as a benevolent character and a victim. Likewise for Nedda. Somehow on the program they wandered from "Diva" into "Witches", leaving us with a little laugh. We might have moved Carmen from "Hellions" to "Witches". We guess it's just how one looks at it.

© meche kroop

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