Finalists in Premiere Opera Foundation's 2021 Competition
Sunday found us at the Finals of Premiere Opera Foundation's 2021 competition where we heard 16 singers, each one of whom had something great to offer. There was also a virtual competition which we did not hear, comprising competitors who were unable to travel. . All competitors were judged by a distinguished group of judges. Generous prize money was awarded and competitors also had the opportunity to be heard by prominent figures in the operatic community. We are sure that the casting directors in attendance were able to fill many positions since the level was very high. One unique feature of this international competition is the lack of age limits.
The audience was welcomed by Eric Margiore, President and Artistic Director, who founded the competition in 2017. The piano accompaniment was provided by marvelous Michael Fennelly who can play just about anything-- with each piece having the correct style.
As is our wont, we will not report the ranks of the "winners". Making the finals is a "win"! That being said, for once we agreed with the judges. We have decided to present the singers in order and say just one thing about each performance.
Greer Lyle, a big girl with a big voice, pleased us with an emotional performance of Kuma's arioso by Tchaikovsky. We liked the pure vowels and the fine vibrato.
Erin Duane Brooks has a promising and powerful voice that has been improving since the first time we heard him sing. His "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci was delivered with big round Italianate vowels, lacking only some variety of color. Yes, Canio has reason to be this bitter but we want to also see his vulnerability so we can feel some sympathy.
Yoseph Park demonstrated a beautiful tonal quality in Wagner's "O du, mein holder Abenstern". There was strength in the lower register and we would like to see him loosen up and use his body as well as his voice.
Shanley Horvitz employed her powerful voice to good effect in "Acerba voluttà" from Cilea's Andrea Chenier. She demonstrated good control and knew when to rein in the power.
Seonho Yu has a lovely tonal quality just right for Tchaikovsky's "Ya vas lyublu" and produced a lovely diminuendo at the conclusion. What we wanted from him was more tenderness and some gestures beyond the stock ones.
Yulan Piao painted a beautiful picture in Leoncavallo's "Stridono lassù", using her bright focused tone and apposite gestures to create a most sympathetic character.
Alex DeSocio portrayed the tormented Starbuck from Heggie's Moby Dick, drawing us in with free body movement that matched the lyrics. Furthermore, his diction enabled us to understand the text which is not always the case with the English language.
Allegra De Vita performed Händel's "Dopo notte" with clean fioritura. She surely knew what she was singing about and made the repetitions interesting.
Tatev Baroyan created the character of Liu in Puccini's "Tu che di gel sei cinta" in a most believable way showing the firmness of her character as she defies Turandot. We also enjoyed her soaring top notes.
Kathleen Reveille performed Händel's "Iris, hence away" with dramatic intent and fine pacing. We liked the strength in her lower register and the variety from one section of the aria to the next.
Maria Natale's bright soprano showed us Cio-cio San's naïveté in a most appealing fashion. We searched the horizon along with her in "Un bel di", seeing the sea through her eyes.
Jonghyun Park brought Tamino to convincing life in Mozart's "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön". He has a sweet tenor tone and tenderness shone through his lovely legato phrasing.
Joseph Lodato was absolutely chilling in "Pari siamo" from Verdi's Rigoletto. He captured the complexity of Rigoletto's character--the bitterness was there as well as the fear.
Katherine Whyte impressed us with her understanding of Marguerite's character in "Ah, je ris de me voir". Her lovely fioritura illuminated the character of an innocent young woman bewitched by extravagant jewels
Thomas Cilluffo made our blood run cold with his delivery of the nasty "Aria of the Worm" from Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. He has a full and powerful voice and an interesting and unusual tonal quality which he employed to create a character. We shivered with his biting enunciation of final consonants.
Meigui Zhang gave us a different kind of shiver in her portrayal of Lucia in "Regnava nel silenzio". There was a successful foreshadowing of her character's ultimate breakdown by the suggestion of fragility. Her bright well-focused soprano tackled the fioritura in the service of the character, contributing to the believability that we so cherish.
It was a thrilling afternoon that demonstrated the scope of the operatic voice in all its glory! All of the finalists deserve great careers and we wish them well.
© meche kroop
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